Category Archives: Nutrition

Couscous with roasted vegetables

Couscous can be flavoured with delicious seasonal vegetables – choose a range of colours and chop the vegetables finely then check the seasoning.

This recipe serves 4 – you can eat it as an accompaniment with grilled halloumi cheese.

Couscous with vegetables


150 g dried couscous

200 ml boiling water

2 tablespoons olive oil

Choice of vegetables –

100 g cherry tomatoes, 80 g red pepper, 100 g cucumber, 200 g courgette, 4 spring onions

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

30 g sultanas

salt and pepper

2 tablespoons wine or cider vinegar

chopped parsley to decorate


  1. Put the couscous in a large bowl and stir in the boiling water with a fork. This helps the couscous absorb the water and keeps the grains separate.
  2. Mix in the olive oil.
  3. Cut the tomatoes in half, and remove the seeds and core from the pepper. Cook with the oil in a large frying pan for 10 minutes until the skins begin to blacken. Remove onto a plate.
  4. Prepare the cucumber by removing the skin and cutting into very fine dice. Finely slice the spring onion.
  5. Grate the courgette and stir into the empty frying pan – use the juices from the tomatoes to stir and cook the courgette until soft.
  6. Chop the tomatoes and pepper finely and add to the couscous.
  7. Stir in the cucumber, courgette, spring onions and sultanas.
  8. Season and flavour with salt, pepper and vinegar.
  9. Serve decorated with chopped parsley.


Skills – tasting, knife skills, preparing vegetables, using cooker, frying, mixing.

This shows the Nutrition analysis from Nutrition Program


This shows the Recipe sheet


This is the Star Profile to show the results and how to improve the recipe

couscous star profile

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Teaching nutrition – vitamins

Teaching  vitamins 1970 style
After minerals we must now learn the vitamins which are named after vital so essential for life. Vitamins follow the letters of the alphabet and were named as they were discovered – A,B,C,D. There is a huge clutter of Bs which muddles things up. They learn that vitamins are either fat or water soluble and this distinction is important as water soluble ones leak out into cooking water and fat soluble dissolve in fat. We come up with learning devices. Buoyancy – floating in water – for B and C, which leaves A and D dissolving in fat.
For learning by heart I create memory prods and more stories.

Let’s start with vitamin A, the first vitamin to be named in 1916. I show them wartime pictures of Dr Carrot, the character who encouraged mass carrot eating to boost our vitamin A intake, when foods rich in vitamin A, such as butter and oily fish, were in short supply. Fighter pilots in World War 11 were given extra helpings of carrots to help prevent night blindness so that they could see in night raids over Germany and carrots were supposed to help the rest of us see in wartime night blackouts.

Doctor Carrot

Doctor Carrot

‘The Germans must have eaten lots of carrots then, when they flew around here. Me nan’s house was flattened by them.’ Alan is showing unexpected interest in my lesson.
‘So class, the message is simple – vitamin A is found in fats and carrots and helps you see in the dark.’

 Vitamin D is added to margarine and the body can manufacture it when we are exposed to sunlight. I tell them stories about slum children who ate a poor diet and lived in areas with lots of smog and pollution who ended up with rickets, as the body needs vitamin D and calcium to form strong bones. During revision time, my students have a plentiful intake of vitamin D as they snooze in the summer sun with copies of Cookery for Schools flattened over their faces to shield the rays.
I remind them of my childhood which they believe happened in the time before the invention of electricity and television.
‘I had to have a teaspoon of cod liver oil every day to make sure I had enough vitamins.’
So what? I must be stupid. Why eat oil from a cod?

Vitamin C
has the best stories. In the 17th century British sailors carried lemons and limes on board ship to prevent the crew from dying of scurvy and this earned the sailors the nickname limeys, which is still used today. Severe scurvy caused the ultimate deficiency disease, death, so that is a warning to them to have a daily dose of orange juice. I tell them again, that as a child we were given free, concentrated orange juice to boost our intake since there was a shortage of fresh fruit. Free food? No oranges? How ever long ago was that?

Teaching vitamin B is the biggest muddle as there are eleven B vitamins, many listed on the cornflake packets. The best story is for Thiamin and goes like this. In 1897 a scientist noticed that chickens fed on left-over white polished rice became ill. I don’t know whether they had snuffles or turned upside down, but the point of the story is that when they ate rice husks they got better. So the moral of this tale is, eat rice husks and you won’t get chicken sickness! The consequence for Britain was that food scientists decided to put thiamin in white flour which has had its wheat husk removed in milling.
Deficiency symptoms for many of these minerals and vitamins include tiredness and lack of energy, and by the end of this lesson we all feel we need to pop a multivitamin pill to counter this feeling of complete exhaustion.

History note
The Nutrition Program ( is our modern day tool for analysing diets and recipes – a quick online resource that will show you the nutritional value including all the vitamins, at the speed of your internet connection. Keep up to date with our Nutrition Programblog.

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Teaching nutrition-minerals

How to teach nutrition
In the 1970s there is a lot of rote learning for my students to learn about the nutrition to pass their CSE and O level exams. I have to invent ways to help them memorise details of which vitamin and mineral does what and where it is found. I underestimate what students already know. They are surrounded by TV ads, magazine features and at breakfast sit opposite a packet of Kelloggs Cornflakes which screams out that it is enriched with vitamins and minerals. They arrive in my lessons packed with these parcels of knowledge which I just need to tie up with a ribbon to make perfect.

I teach nutrition through stories and warnings, like the messages hidden in fairy tales. My visual aid is an ancient book from my mother’s school training called Modern School Hygiene which has scary photos of people with a variety of diseases which you can get if you don’t eat the right diet.
We start with calcium. The Milk Marketing Board has drummed it into us to Drinka Pinta Milka Day to answer our nutritional needs for calcium, and that a deficiency leads to rickets and bad teeth. The book shows a picture of stick thin Victorian girls with bowed legs ‘due to a diet low in calcium’. It fails to mention that these children are probably starving and dirt poor.

‘Now class, we know that good sources of calcium are milk, cheese, white bread where it is added, hard water, green vegetables and the bones of salmon and sardines. You have to plan a two course meal that is rich in calcium.’
They look at me in horror, dumbstruck by this unspeakably dreadful food choice.
‘Miss, do you mean a meal like sardine bones with cheese and cabbage and milk pudding?’
I can see they would rather have bowed legs and rotten teeth than tuck into this feast.
‘Cookery for Schools says that tinned salmon and sardines are rich in calcium because the bones are soft and you can eat them.’
Bones, soft, eat them? Cabbage and milk pudding maybe, but they are not eating bones.

Next iron.
‘Lack of iron means you get anaemia and feel very tired.’ Brian stifles a yawn and the rest of the group look exhausted.
‘Women are most likely to suffer from anaemia as they lose iron rich blood when they menstruate.’
The boys perk up. Menstruate? What secret business is going on with women that makes them lose blood?
‘Women lose blood in their monthly periods.’
Oh gawd, their biology and sex education have not covered this yet. I can see that the boys fall into two camps. The sexually aware, ‘in the know’ camp and the totally innocent camp who have yet to find out, but don’t want the rest of the group to know as they can’t stand up to the merciless teasing.
‘OK class, another exercise. You have to plan a two course meal which is rich in iron. Foods rich in iron include liver, kidney, meat, egg yolk, dried fruit, black treacle and watercress.’
Ugh! There is a collective groan. What ghastly meal can you kmake from this disgusting choice?
‘How about liver paté with watercress salad followed by treacle tart and custard?’
They are open mouthed with horror. No-one eats liver EVER. They may try and serve it for school dinner, but no-one EVER EATS IT. Liver and bacon cooked in globby gravy gets scraped in the pig swill bin beside the stacks of dirty dinner plates. Earth the earth, pigs liver goes back to pig.
‘You can go to the doctor and get iron pills if you suffer from anaemia.’
The girls look relieved. This bead of comfort means they will never have to eat liver even as they recline on their sickness couch in the final stages of suffering for iron deficiency.

There are some good stories about iodine deficiency, and Modern School Hygiene has a picture of some poor woman with massive neck swelling like an inflated balloon, and the disease goitre.
‘So you must eat fish and things that come from the sea which are rich in iodine. Otherwise you might get goitre.’
‘What about eating seaweed miss?’
I haven’t thought this through.
‘Yes, seaweed is good.’
‘How do you eat seaweed then?’
I burble on about the Welsh making it into bread but they are not convinced that it is an edible food.
Iodine deficiencies are so rare, and probably due to some other underlying health problem, but I continue with my stories about Derbyshire neck and sufferers found in Switzerland, both areas that are miles from the sea and access to seafood in the olden days when they think I grew up.

The next lesson is vitamins.

History note

My first food book

My first food book

In 1980 I wrote my first book Finding Out About Food which is still in print. We used a picture of a child with rickets, but to disguise its identity, its head was blacked out. So my future students thought that rickets made your head go black.

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