Tom Kerridge Fresh Start - The Gang
Ready to Start Cooking?

The Fresh Start families gathering

Tom Kerridge's Fresh Start BBC2

By Trudi Purdy, wlr team

Did you catch Tom Kerridge’s new TV series, Fresh Start? I watched each of the episodes to bring you the low down.

In this series, Tom was aiming to help 8 families from his neighbourhood who knew their habits needed to change.

He wanted them to ditch convenience foods and cook delicious homemade meals from scratch, to help them to embrace healthier ingredients, encourage them to up their exercise and get the whole family involved. He planned to do this in 6 steps.

Episode 6 – We’ve Got This

This was the last episode in the series. Since starting on the plan, Tom said the 8 families had really embraced every home cooking challenge he’d set them.

They had transformed meal times and made lots of other positive changes by getting more active, adding more veg to their diets and trying new things. And their final challenge would be to cook something for the group picnic to celebrate the end of the programme.

First, Tom wanted to show how to upscale servings for recipes. His beef biriyani was a one pot wonder perfect to replace the Saturday night takeaway.

Beef Biriyani recipe

It’s was packed with authentic flavours but with 600 calories per portion, including rice, it’s nearly half the calories of a takeaway curry.

The Johnsons

Becky, Neil, Ewan, Harry and Jack are a bit of a party family. Becky said,

‘Having people round is what makes us tick but I want to be able to serve food that I don’t feel dreadful eating.’

Their normal go to foods were things like hotdogs and pizzas when they have a get together.

They decided to make Tom’s chicken and bacon ranch burgers but needed to upscale Tom’s recipe from 4 to 15.

Chicken & Bacon Ranch Burger recipe

The Johnsons wouldn’t be able to attend the final picnic with Tom and the rest of the gang but Tom wanted to know how they had found the 6 step plan.

Becky said,

‘It’s completely changed our lives.’

Neil said,

‘In every way. We’re eating healthier, we’re eating smarter, the kids are involved and we’re all exercising more.’

The Picnic

Tom said the gang had mastered some super impressive cooking skills but he had one last thing for them to get their heads around. He wanted them to have a go at his chicken, ham and leek pie recipe.

Chicken, Ham and Leek Pie recipe

Tom asked all of the families to make resolutions for the year ahead. Some of the resolutions were:

  • The Johnsons – Stay Connected. With food, where they buy it from, what they eat and as a family
  • The Lovedays – To have a vegetarian meal at least once a week. Tim was the guy who never ate veg.
  • The Thomas’ – To have 5 a day. They even created their own plates at a pottery painting place to help keep them on track.

At the beginning, Tom had asked all the families to take fitness tests. They took the same tests again in the episode, to see how far they had come. Tom revealed the results at the picnic. He said,

’12 weeks ago, stood in front of me, were a load of people scared to get in the kitchen. Convenience food was their lives. Now, I’ve got a bunch of people in front of me that are cooking amazing food and having the kids involved in it as well. You should be super proud of yourselves.’

As a group they had lost weight, lowered their body fat, improved fitness levels and taken years off their metabolic age. Tom went on to say,

‘And you’re all a lot happier. These families are proof that when we make a fresh start, everyone’s a winner.’

The picnic was a great opportunity for the families to show off their new kitchen confidence and skills as Tom asked them all to bring food that was perfect to share. All they had to do was upscale Tom’s recipes to share among everyone that was there.

Episode 5 – Get Moving

When the Fresh Start gang started Tom’s challenge, they took some health and fitness tests to see where they were. This episode was all about exercise and how to fuel our bodies with good food.

Tom created some really tasty looking energy bars to share with the gang. They were cheap to make and had a whole lot less sugar in than the store bought version, with the added bonus that you know exactly what’s in them.

Apricot, Date and Pistachio Flapjacks recipe

The Roy-Choudhry Family

The Roy-Choudhury’s were keen to get moving. There is a family history of heart problems and diabetes and Payal said they wanted to try and avoid these diseases.

‘We want to improve our quality of life, live linger and a better life. Not with aches, pains and problems.’

One of the Fresh Start gang members, Chris Clarke, is an International Tennis Coach. He took time out of his busy schedule to show the family how tennis could help them get moving. He ran them through some drills and the family seemed to really enjoy themselves. Niharika said,

‘Exercising with my family is much more fun than doing it with my friends because you can laugh at them and they laugh at you.’

Tom invited the family back to his to sample a recipe for a warm salmon salad.

Warm Salmon Salad recipe

Messing About on the River

Because of Kerry’s illness, exercise has taken a back seat. She used to be a keen rower but hasn’t been able to get out on the river for a while.

She started rowing 12 years ago, after her first brush with cancer but it came back 2 years ago and, because of operations and treatment, she hasn’t been able to row. Her goal is to get back on the river.

Tom suggested she coach some of the other gang members in rowing to help get them active and get her back into it slowly.

Claire and Abii took Kerry up on the offer of rowing lessons and seemed to really enjoy it. Kerry loved showing them how to do it. She said,

‘It’s really nice to actually show somebody else what I do and, hopefully, they’ll get as excited about it as I do as a way of exercising. It’s really nice to be able to pass it on to someone else.’

Tom then set Claire and Abii a challenge to row 1000 metres up the river and back for their next rowing lesson. They totally smashed it and loved it to boot!

Kerry was back on the water and Clair and Abii had grabbed the opportunity to try something new with both hands.

As a group, the gang have upped their activity by 150% with a whopping 5000 more minutes of activity than before, all fuelled by delicious home cooked food.

Whatever exercise you do, it’s important to make sure you are fuelling your body correctly, says Tom. He reckons his goat’s cheese frittata is the perfect blend of protein and slow release carbs to refuel after a gym or exercise session.

Spinach and Goat's Cheese Frittata recipe

The next episode looks at the results of the six weeks for all of the families.

Episode 4 – Be Healthy

This time, Tom shifted the focus to the gang’s health, using his recipes as inspiration to get them eating more fruit and veg.

Tom invited his brother and his family to lunch. Tom’s brother, Sam, isn’t keen on veg so Tom wanted to convert him by showing him how to cook some recipes that included veg and tasted amazing.

He road tested his spicy beef lettuce cups on Sam. These are spicy beef and noodles, stir fried and served in lettuce cups.

Tom’s tip: The trick with stir fry is to prep everything first so it’s all ready to be chucked in the pan and cooked.

Spicy Beef Lettuce Cups recipe

Chris and Kerry Clarke

Fitness is at the heart of Chris and Kerry’s life so, when Tom first met them he wondered why they needed a fresh start.

Chris said that he didn’t think they looked too bad weight wise but that what was going on inside needed a bit of help. Kerry agreed and said,

‘We just eat out and heat up food. We don’t plan.’

Their son said,

‘It’s laughable because you’d go to the cupboard to make some toast or tea or whatever and the milk would be two weeks out of date and the bread would have mould all over it.’

Chris is a professional tennis coach and is often away from home for work. This can disrupt eating habits for the whole family. Their son said that when Chris is home, it’s like they are making up for when he’s away and want meals to be special and they like to spend quality time together, so they go out a lot.

But they have a much more pressing reason to want to be healthier and eat better. Kerry has breast cancer for the 2nd time and is undergoing treatment. She said,

‘I have no immune system whatsoever so the better the food going into me, with more vitamins, the more I’m going to be able to try and fight.’

Chris is not a good cook – or at least, he wasn’t. He doesn’t like not being good at something so, struggling with cooking didn’t sit well with him.

Kerry’s palate has changed because of the treatment and she really likes fish and Mediterranean style food. Tom took him under his wing to show him how to cook a good, healthy dish that Kerry would really enjoy.

Gremolata Fish with Tartare Sauce and Wedges recipe

All the flavour and texture of fish and chips but not a deep fat fryer in sight!

Tom then created some gorgeous looking banana choc ices.

Banana Choc Ices recipe

With these yummy creations, upping your portions of fruit would be a treat and not a chore!

Tim and Claire Loveday

Tim is a huge meat eater and doesn’t really eat any fruit and veg so Tom wanted to show him how delicious veg can be when treated right. He said,

‘The sort of thing you really like when you’re a meat eater are roasted flavours. Things that have got caramelisation. The natural sweetness you get when you roast meat. Those sugars exist in vegetables too.’

He created a roasted Russian salad for the Lovedays. Tim tried some and said it wasn’t too bad. Tom then set him a challenge to help get more veg in his diet. He asked Tim to become vegetarian for a week.

When Tom caught up with the Lovedays at the end of the week, Tim said,

‘I’ve actually really enjoyed making the changes and I’ve really enjoyed the food. It made me realise that meat isn’t the be all and end all.’

Tom has been impressed with how the group have embraced new ideas. They have doubled their fruit and veg portions since the beginning – 564 portions of fruit and veg across the group in a week. Tim had gone from 3 portions to 21!

Next time, Tom takes a look at how much exercise the group are getting.

Episode 3

Step 3 – Start ‘Em Young!

This time Tom wanted to get the kids involved and into the kitchen – as well as some of the adults who never normally cooked!

The families have really got to grips with cooking from scratch but, like a lot of families, getting dinner on the table is down to a designated cook, and it’s generally the mums.

Tom feels that choosing what to eat and cooking it should be a shared activity for the whole family and it helps develop a positive attitude to food.

Tom made his Feta and Greens Filo triangles with his son, Acey. He cooks with him quite regularly in the hope he finds it fun and will want to carry on cooking for himself when he is older.

Feta & Greens Filo Triangles recipe

Making Cooking a Joy Again

The Roy-Choudhury family joined Tom’s 6 step program because they wanted to find new, healthier recipes to enjoy.

Payal said that, as a child, all she ate was Indian food and when she started cooking for herself, she used the same recipes over and over again. This meant, that for her, cooking had become a chore and was no longer a joy.

She was enjoying cooking some of Tom’s new, lighter recipes and now she wanted the family to get involved.

When they did cook, the kids seemed to really enjoy it and found eating what they had prepared more satisfying.

Tom’s Secret

Tom cooked some gorgeous looking pork and lentil sausage rolls. He said they were a great way of getting people to eat veg that they would normally push to the side of the plate – vegetables in disguise!

The pastry Tom used was ready-made shop bought puff pastry. He said,

‘I’ll let you into a little secret. I’ve been a chef for 27 years. I’ve never made puff pastry at home. Ever!’

Feta & Greens Filo Triangles recipe

The Thomas Family

Mark and Becky have 3 children and both work. It falls to Becky to do most of the prep and cooking when it comes to meal time. She said,

‘I’m the one who decides what we’re eating and whether it’s healthy o not so IO feel a lot of pressure on that.’

Mark said,

‘I’m ready to go at least 40 60.’

Becky looked at him and he swiftly changed it to 50 50!

He admitted to being a bit lazy when it came to cooking, but also a little fearful of whatever he cooked not tasting good. With Tom’s help that wasn’t an issue – they cooked a scrummy looking butternut squash pasta bake. Becky said,

‘I think it’s really important that Mark does his share in the kitchen to show that cooking is for everyone because I want the two boys, when they leave here, to be able to cook for themselves and not rely on someone else to do it for them.’

Mark had been spending quite a lot of time in the kitchen after his session with Tom. Becky said she thought it would mean some time off for her, but what has actually happened is that they now prepare dinner together and are enjoying cooking as a team.

Tom then cooked one of my personal favourite, Smoky Quesadillas.

Feta & Greens Filo Triangles recipe

The Ruff-Brooks

This family have struggled with trying new things in the kitchen and new flavours. They are self-confessed fussy eaters.

Sophia, the youngest of the family, had really started to embrace the whole cooking from scratch thing. She gave up a week of her holiday to attend a cookery class – and they were doing some advanced stuff! She really seemed to enjoy picking up new skills and trying new flavours alongside the other girls doing the class.

Next time, fruit and veg are taking centre stage.

Episode 2

Step 2 – Boss the Kitchen

This time, Tom wants his gang to get organised by planning, shopping and being clever cooks.

He wants them to make their own ready meals rather than reheating shop bought ones.

We’re all for that! Better to have a homemade ready meal in the freezer than a shop bought one – at least you know that it’s all good ingredients in it.

Tom said,

‘I want my gang to be a bit more organised about the way they do things at home. Starting with menu planning, shopping and, in particular, batch cooking.’

Tom had put together some hand-picked menu packs for the families and said the families needed to follow his 3 rules:

  • Plan your meals
  • Shop from a list
  • Be clever cooks by batch cooking homemade ready meals

The Johnson Family

Neil is a decorator and Becky runs the business. Because they are busy, they have fallen into the habit of relying on convenience foods like pizzas and chicken dippers.

The Johnsons had decided they wanted to be eating healthier meals for themselves and as good role models for their two boys.

Tom showed Becky and Neil how to fill in a plan for the week from the recipes he had sent them. From that, they worked out a shopping list. Tom’s plan was to show them how to plan, shop and batch cook, helping them eat healthier meals and save money and waste.

Tom’s Tip: Tin foil should always be shiny side towards to food – it helps whatever you are cooking to cook more efficiently because the shiny side reflects the heat. (I’ve definitely been doing it wrong!)

The O’Connor Family

Steph and Mike have got themselves stuck in a rut of cooking two meals every evening. One for them and one for the kids. Steph said,

‘I think my diet’s got worse since having the children. I tend to grab things on the run – snacks and things. Unhealthy snacks.’

The lifestyle change they wanted to make is cooking one healthy meal for the family instead of two.

Tom said that learning to batch cook meals would really help the family. They would be able to cook one meal for dinner even if they ended up eat at different times to the children.

One of the recipes Tom suggested for batch cooking was Butternut Squash & Chickpea Curry – great for batching up and freezing for another time.

Butternut Squash & Chickpea Curry recipe

Tom also created a yummy looking chocolate mousse that took just minutes.

He says this chocolate mousse is a winner, especially when you’re tight on time.

‘It has a very nutritious, surprise ingredient and tastes amazing!’

Quick Chocolate Pudding recipe

Tom’s Fact of The Day: Vanilla extract comes from vanilla pods. Vanilla essence is manufactured.

Quick Fire Recipes

‘The Johnsons are all over their planning and batch cooking. Now I want to show them how to save time with some quick fire recipes.’

Tom showed them his Italian classic, Spaghetti Puttanesca, that is made in minutes.

Spaghetti Puttanesca recipe

Saving Money

Tom has been keeping track of the families’ spending while they’ve been planning and shopping for the week’s food to see if it will also save them money.

‘I am super pleased and massively impressed. Across the board for our 8 families, they have managed to decrease their spending by over a third!’

A couple of the families had managed to cut their spending in half!

‘And as well as spending less, my families have proved that a bit of forward planning, some smart shopping and a dash of clever cooking can transform family meal times!’

Next time, Tom wants to get the whole family cooking and will be working with the kids to get them excited about the food they are eating.

Step 1 Get Cooking

Tom met the gang for brunch to get the whole thing started. He gave them a bunch of new recipes to cook at home with the ingredients they would need. He told them,

‘It’s time to press the restart button on home cooking and rediscover the joy of family meals.’

Most of the families in the group rely on ready meals, convenience foods and take outs. Tom feels that part of the issue is the families’ confidence in the kitchen.

The more confident we get in the kitchen, it all leads to a healthier relationship with food.’

The Clark Family

The first recipe and ingredients were for sausage and mash with an onion gravy.

Kerry, from the Clark family said,

‘I’ve never done bangers and mash with all these ingredients before. I don’t know what this thing is in the corner here. Is it a bowling ball? Don’t know what to do with that!’

I think Tom may well have his work cut out for him here, she was talking about a swede!

Bangers with Sweet Potato & Swede Mash and Onion Gravy recipe

Kerry and her husband Chris managed to follow the recipe, although they were a little concerned about the thickness of their gravy and got a little tetchy! Chris said,

‘I’m not sure we have the patience for cooking!’

But they managed and the food actually looked quite edible when they dished it up. Chris said,

‘That’s the first time both of us have been in the kitchen at the same time for years!’

Tom said,

‘The simple joy of home cooked, family meals is at the heart of my plan. But so many things can get in the way of this. For me, finding time in my busy schedule is the biggest hurdle. So we try to ring fence Sundays and make sure they’re a super special day where we can all sit down together and eat.’

He cooked a gorgeous looking roasted leg of lamb, Greek style, with herby roast potatoes and a salad for him and his family.

The Bowell-Harris Family

Emma Bowell and Abi Harris are working mums to Elsie who’s nearly 1. They struggle to cook homemade meals that they will all enjoy so Elsie normally eats pre-packed baby/toddler food.

Abi said that they did cook for her for a while but she wasn’t eating it. She said,

‘I’m not sure if she didn’t like it or we weren’t cooking it properly and it just took too much time.’

She said her and Emma regularly had ready meals or takeaway.

Emma said,

‘The worst thing about the way we eat is Elsie is watching us.’

Abi said,

‘She always asks for some of our food but I don’t want her eating what we eat.’

Tom wanted to help them learn to cook meals that all three of them could eat. He showed them how to make pasta in a creamy red pepper sauce. The sauce can be frozen in little tubs so Elsie can have it at a later date or they can pre-prepare a couple of meals for when time is short. All they would have to do is cook some pasta and heat the sauce.

He got the girls to char the red peppers with a blow torch, even though they were already cooked. He said the blow torch would really bring out the flavour and add a bit of fun into the cooking!

Tom said that even as a chef, his son still wants chips and spaghetti hoops but it’s all about moderation. He said,

‘If Elsie goes through a period of just wanting chips covered in tomato sauce, but you’re not eating that, she’ll come out the other side.’

Keep it Simple

Tom recons the secret to getting cooking is to keep it simple to start with and let your confidence grow. He made a Mediterranean salad with chorizo and sour dough bread croutons to prove that simple doesn’t mean tasteless.

I got a few little cooking tips from Tom while watching this episode. Apparently, tomatoes should always be served at room temperature at least. Tom said,

‘They are grown in greenhouses, soaking up the sun. You need to let that sunshine out.’

He also said not to dress a salad before you need it if it is a leaf based salad because it will wilt. But a nice chunky veg salad should be left to sit in the dressing for a while because it helps to soften the veg a little.

The Ruff-Brooks Family

Andrew and Nicola have two daughters, Ashley-Jade and Sophia and are confessed fussy eaters. Nicola said,

‘I can cook basic things but I was never taught as a child to really cook. It’s much easier for me to just stick a pizza in the oven or stick some nuggets in the oven than to cook.’

While Tom was helping Nicola prepare the meal, he checked out her fridge.

‘There’s some carrots in here!’ he said in surprise.

‘Yeah, they’re for the guinea pigs!’ said Nicola.

Tom was really concerned about putting this family off home-cooking because they had said they were fussy eaters. But came up with the genius idea of turkey schnitzels – just like a posh chicken nugget! He said,

‘Starting with familiar food is a sure-fire way to get everyone to tuck in.’

He teamed it with a green slaw that Nicola loved but Ashley-Jade and Sophie weren’t so keen on. The schnitzel, however, was a hit! Here’s the recipe:

Turkey Schnitzel with Green Slaw recipe

In The Chef’s Kitchen

Tom invited Emma and Abi to his kitchen with little Elsie to show them how they could cook their own healthier takeaway dish.

He cooked Peanut Chicken Stir Fry with Noodles.

Peanut Chicken Stir Fry Noodles recipe

This dish, although not authentic, had an Asian flavour to it and the ladies said it was delicious. It was a hit with Elsie too!

At the first meeting of all of the families, Tom had asked them to keep count of how many meals they cooked from scratch over the next two weeks and send him the video evidence. He wanted to compare what they were doing now to what they used to do.

At the end of this episode, Tom said the gang had cooked nearly 3 times as many meals from scratch than when they began!

The next episode is all about how to be a Boss in the kitchen. Watch this space for the update!

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