Inviting young people to cook under a competitive environment is a great way of getting them to enjoy healthy cooking. Students leaving home for the first time to head to university are suddenly confronted with questions around what and how to cook – and in February 2017 I met with some inspiring student chefs who entered the LoSalt Student Cook of the Year (SCOTY) competition. As nutritionist to LoSalt, it was up to me to judge the entries for nutritional composition and I was impressed with the level of knowledge demonstrated by the five short-listed students from around the UK.

students at LoSalt cook off

My interest in this area stems from personal experience with my own two children, and my work with NHS choices on helping students to eat well after leaving home. The other judges joining me were:

There were two stages to the competition, and the final stage was a “Bake-off style” cook-off with the five short-listed candidates. The event took place at Cactus Kitchens  (where Saturday kitchen is filmed), and was orchestrated by Satellite PR.

judging

The criteria

This was a professionally executed competition, with strict scoring criteria for the following categories:

Stage 1:

  • Originate a healthy meal for 4 on a budget of £20
  • Scoring system based on nutritional content
  • Scoring system based on creativity

Dishes submitted at this stage included sweet potato and chick pea curry, butternut squash, pesto and spinach lasagne, and steak ragu.

Stage 2:

  • Create your version of a nutritious and tasty lasagne from a variety of healthy (and not so healthy) ingredients on offer, within a strict time limit of 1.5 hours.
  • Explain your choice of ingredients and why you believe your dish is healthier than a standard lasagne.
  • Scoring system based on awareness of healthy eating recommendations and nutritional composition of the dish
  • Scoring system based on creativity and originality
  • Scoring system based on taste

 

My 5 best bits

  1. Tasting the finished products!
  2. I couldn’t believe how well the students had created their own version using tasty ingredients to help reduce the need for added salt. As well as LoSalt, they incorporated bold flavours like Tabasco, red wine and balsamic vinegar. Fresh herbs, garlic and spices like cumin also helped to add interesting flavours and cut added salt.
  3. Many were aware of fibre content and chose to use wholemeal pasta sheets and half and half wholemeal to white flour in the béchamel sauce.
  4. Grated mature cheeses helped to cut down saturated fats, as they added a fuller flavour and hence less was needed.
  5. Some participants added roasted vegetables like aubergines to bring texture, depth of flavour, and an extra serving of one of your 5-a-day fruit and veg.

And the winner is…

Jake Barwood from Bristol University. Why? You needed to be there. His veggie lasagne made from puy lentils had the robust flavours of any meat-based lasagne I’d tried, and yet it also imparted a delicacy of fresh veggies and a light yet creamy cheese sauce. Jake used his creativity to conjure up a lower salt, lower fat, higher fibre lasagne and explained how he tries to have one meat-free day a week. He worked with elegance and flair, and I’d visit him for one of his home-cooked meals at the drop of a hat!

az & the winner

Well done Jake.

With thanks to LoSalt and Satellite PR for inviting me to judge this competition. This is an honest blogpost and has not been influenced by LoSalt.