It’s not often that I’d consider reviewing a cookery book, but the combination of healthier eating with your heart particularly in mind and the know-how of Michelin starred chef and heart attack survivor Sat Bains was enough to say yes please.
Bains, who was a gym regular and fit guy, suffered a massive heart attack just after turning 50 in 2021, and underwent triple bypass surgery followed by months of recovery and regaining his fitness, but he realised he needed to improve his diet too. He worked with Dr Neil Williams, a exercise physiologist and nutritionist whom he’d met before to devise heart healthy menus that were full of flavour; this book is the result of their collaboration.
After Sat’s introduction where he tells the story of his heart attack and his recovery, the next short section gives us an overview of the various chapters’ food groups: eggs; salads; vegetables; fish; meat; smoothies, snacks and breads; soups, sauces, pickles and broths; and lastly a few sweet things. A store cupboard spice list and some notes on sizes and measures etc. complete the survey of what’s coming up in the following chapters.
But before that Dr Williams takes us through his top ten heart healthy food types, from a rainbow of veg through oily fish to lean meat finishing at herbs and spices. Neither he, nor Sat would totally leave good quality unprocessed red meat out of their diets, stressing that diversity is key and that it should only form a part of what we eat should we choose it.
We’ve reached the recipes! They all focus on fresh food that is generally quick to cook, with not too many main ingredients for the most part, although there are often quite a few spices. Unusually, they’re almost all sized for 2 helpings. Each recipe has an introduction by Bains, useful and interesting nutrition notes by Williams, and the method and ingredients.
Given Bains’ Punjabi origins, there are some good veggie curry recipes, including one for Brussels Sprouts, and ‘Momma Bains’ Aloo Gobi’ (potato and cauliflower). He is also a lover of Thai flavours, some of the salads use nam pla (fish sauce) in their dressings though – if I make these I’ll miss it out as I’m not a fan. In the fish chapter, he has a lovely recipe for roasting cod en papillote, except he doesn’t use the French term for baking in paper! I’ve only had time to try the cod, but all of the fish recipes sound delicious. The meat chapter begins with an assortment of chicken recipes before moving onto lamb, pork, venison and even steak, concentrating on spice mixes to rub on or marinade in, and obviously roasting/grilling/BBQ is largely the order of the day here.
I liked the way that the recipes are accessible, designed to be cooked any day, with new takes on staples, spicing things up, and once you’ve got your spice cupboard sorted, easy to do. Bains suggests variations too for when you get more confident.
I could have done with more mains, some stir fries and one-pot meals perhaps, and the sweet things chapter is mostly superfluous, but there is enough in this nicely produced book to get you thinking about eating more healthily. The green extra virgin olive oil colour scheme is very calming too, giving confidence in the ease of cooking. Bains’ intros to each recipe are conversational, often with little stories built in. Williams’ nutrition notes are fascinating though: finding out that roughing up raw cauliflower increases a particular beneficial anti-inflammatory chemical was a revelation!
Source: Review copy – thank you. Kyle Books hardback, 192 pages. BUY at Blackwell’s via my affiliate link (free UK P&P)