The Fit Foodie: Slow cooking is the way to go

This week’s column is a bit of background about my work and my team. I’m talking all about slow cooking for my recipes.

Derval with chef Graham Donovan. Picture: Miki Barlok

Most weeks I get asked the question “Oh you’re that runner, so what are you up to now?” I’m involved in a lot and I hope this week’s column gives some background to that.

To simplify what I do, each week is separated into three areas.

Firstly there is brand/media work. Generally, this means working with brands/companies as an ambassador. I do ambassador work because it means working on longer-term campaigns and building a good relationship with people. Plus, I get to work with products that I really like and use all the time. The media work that I do is varied. I’ve just finished filming Ireland’s Fittest Family and I’ll appear as a panelist on Ireland’s Greatest Sporting Moments in the coming weeks. I’m also an athletics analyst on RTÉ’s coverage of athletics. Although the TV work is very visible it takes up the least amount of my time, generally just a few days each month.

The second area I work in I would loosely call ‘on-going projects’. This includes my two cookbooks, an upcoming snack product, a food service partner (Brook Food Services) and this column. My projects start as an idea and I then try to figure out how to make it happen. This area is lots of work and generally, really time-consuming but I Iove it! I enjoy the challenge of bringing something together from a simple idea to actually existing and people being able to engage with it.

The final area is digital. I consider digital to be anything that is online like the recipes, fitness, blogs, videos etc that are up on my website (www.derval.ie) or on my social media. I’m working on an online platform to do more work in this area. I love the world of online and think there is an amazing opportunity to be in direct contact with people who are interested in what I do. I get lots of feedback on my column/cookery books but only when I meet people in person whereas online I get feedback straight away.

Now that you have a bit of background I wanted to talk about my team. When I was a professional athlete one of the key reasons I won medals was working with people that were far smarter than me and who could guide my career! I did my job of performing when it mattered and they did their job of preparing me. To a large extent, it is the same now. I have loads of ideas but I work with great people to bring them together.

There are a few people that work with me each week and then there are others that work with me on a more ad hoc basis. On a weekly part-time basis, Aishling and Diane work in the office. Aishling is my food science go to. She has a degree in nutritional sciences from UCC and is really knowledgeable. Aishling informs a huge amount of the column and is an amazing resource. Diane works with me on digital and is super busy with the online platform. She ends up getting dragged into everything and anything so her digital role often ends up in being everything.

When it comes to food some of my favourite people are professional chefs. They work in one of the hardest industries and their skill with food is superb. For that reason, I recipe develop and test with a chef called Graham Donovan. Graham has been a professional chef for 13 years and he brings an extra layer to my recipes.

There are lots of other people who add to my work whether that is using a dietician on my second book or getting the opinion of an experienced personal trainer on my workout plans. Working with other people adds a lot of credibility and makes whatever I’m doing better. I’m really thankful to have a super team around me and hopefully, we can keep working on great projects together.

Fitspiration - Miki Barlok

Miki does the photography for this column and for lots of the social media work I do.

He is super talented and his website has some amazing examples of his work. Be sure to check it out, it’s barlokphoto.com or he is also on Instagram.

Slow cooked lamb shanks

Slow cookers really seem to have found a new life recently. I love mine as it allows me to create delicious nutritious and cost-effective meals with minimal effort. In the morning, I simply pop all the ingredients into my slow cooker and by dinner time, a healthy and nourishing meal awaits me. This recipe is one of my favourite ways to use my slow cooker. I love them served with some baked sweet potatoes and greens.

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 6 hours
Serves: 4
  • 4 lamb shanks, you can get these from your butcher
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 carrots, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbs tomato paste
  • 500ml passata
  • Handful of rosemary, fresh is ideal but dried works well too
  • Handful thyme, fresh is ideal but dried also works well.
  • 250ml water
  • Pinch of salt and pepper

Place the lamb shanks, garlic and vegetables in the slow cooker or alternatively, a large casserole dish.

Mix the tomato paste, passata, herbs and water in a jug and pour over the shanks. Ensure the lamb shanks are fully covered by the mixture, if not add more water.

If using a slow cooker set it to a high setting and cook for 6 hours.

If using a casserole dish then preheat the oven to 1400C and cook for six hours

Place the cooked shanks onto warmed serving plates and enjoy with sides of your choice.

Slow cooked beef curry

I love a good curry and think they are the perfect answer to the winter weather we have been having recently. I often cook a big batch of this curry on the weekend and then enjoy the leftovers midweek when time is tight. If you want to stock up your freezer, make a double batch of this delicious curry.

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 2 ½ hours
Serves: 4
  • 2 tbs rapeseed oil
  • 800g beef pieces, you can get these from your butcher
  • 2 onions, thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2-inch piece of ginger, grated
  • 3 tbs tomato paste
  • 500g baby potatoes
  • 1L passata
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 500ml water

To serve:

  • 200g natural yoghurt
  • Small bunch of fresh mint, roughly chopped
  • Handful of flaked almonds, lightly toasted.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan, add the beef and cook until lightly browned.

Add the onion and fry until it starts to brown.

Add the garlic and ginger and fry for a further 2-3 minutes.

Add the tomato paste, passata and spices to the pot, along with the water.

Bring to the boil then turn down the heat and simmer on a low heat for 2 hours.

Add the potatoes and cook for another 30 minutes.

Once cooked, transfer to warmed serving bowls and top with the mint, yoghurt and almonds. Alternatively, allow to cool fully then store in an airtight container in the fridge. Enjoy!


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