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Divine Davina

Confused about carbs? TV star and mum of three Davina McCall is on a mission to help clear up the confusion and dish up some tasty grub in the process. Keeley Bolger tucks in

Published 27/02/2016

Davina McCall
Davina McCall

After 15 years of marriage, Davina McCall surprised her husband Matthew by arranging to renew their vows in Las Vegas last Spring.

Romantic as it sounds, the TV presenter and fitness fanatic insists it was quite the opposite. In fact, the whole day was a family affair, with their three children - Holly (14), Tilly (12) and nine-year-old Chester - secretly writing the vows on the plane, and two "really great friends" who couldn't come to their wedding in 2000 joining in on the surprise.

"I said to Matthew, 'we're going to renew our vows', and his face sort of fell," McCall (48) recalls with a laugh. "He said, 'oh my God, that's so cheesy'. I said, 'darling, we're just going in our clothes, you don't have to change into anything, we're going to have a real laugh, the kids have written the vows', and he went, 'actually, that's quite cute'. We all piled down to the Little White Chapel and laughed our way through our wedding vows.

"It was brilliant because it was very casual, we didn't make it into a great big thing."

After this long together, the couple have a good rhythm at home, but McCall notes that there's always room for improvement.

"It's funny because recently, when I've worked a couple of nights, Matthew's cooked for friends or cooked for the kids, and I think, 'hang on a minute, how come you never cook when I'm there?'

"He's actually quite a good cook, so I was like, 'right that is it, you are going to cook for me a bit more'. He's very good at cooking, Matthew."

McCall, who can currently be seen hosting Channel 4's winter sports show The Jump, is also a dab hand in the kitchen, of course, recently adding another healthy-eating cookbook to her repertoire.

Written out of frustration at the confusing advice surrounding carbohydrates, Davina's Smart Carbs seeks to simplify the issue.

"I've always been telling everybody about eating a balanced, healthy diet [one that includes carbs], and then I suddenly thought, 'have I been telling people the wrong thing?' Then a nutritionist told me that there are good carbs and bad carbs, and we came up with this idea of smart carbs.

"It makes total sense; there are smart carbs, ones that are good for us, and there are some very simple changes we can make."

These changes include swapping white bread, rice and pasta for brown varieties ("that's a no-brainer") and using sweet potato in place of regular spuds.

McCall recalls how she thought her kids would "baulk" when she first made a chicken crumble with a cauliflower, quinoa and Parmesan topping, but actually they loved it.

"It's interesting, you think, 'oh well, the kids aren't going to like it', but the kids have got more adventurous with the new stuff I give them. They're into trying new things."

She acknowledges mealtimes can be a battleground, however.

"I've got three kids and quite often, two of them like something and one of them doesn't. I don't make them something different, I just say, 'have some of the veg and have a bit more of this if you don't like that'.

"I always try and get them to try it," McCall adds. "The more somebody tries something, the more likely they are to like it in the end."

Fancy trying some of McCall's recipes yourself? Here are three tasty recipes from Davina's Smart Carbs.

Davina's Smart Carbs by Davina McCall is published by Orion Books, priced £16.99. Available now

Baked plums: what you'll need

25g butter, plus extra for greasing

8 ripe plums, halved and stones removed

25g honey

75g ground almonds

25g flaked almonds, plus extra to garnish

Seeds from 3 cardamom pods, ground

Quarter tsp ground ginger

Pinch of cinnamon

To serve

1tbsp honey (optional)

150g creme fraiche or yoghurt

SERVES 4

Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas 6/400°F. Grease an ovenproof dish with a little butter. Place the plums, cut side up, in the dish.

Put the 25g of honey with the butter in a small saucepan and warm them over a gentle heat until they've melted together. Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir the almonds and spices into the butter and honey. The mixture should be quite crumbly, but it should clump together when squeezed.

Spoon about a dessertspoon of the mixture into the centre of each plum half. Bake the plums in the oven for about 15 minutes, or until they have completely softened and the topping is golden brown.

Whisk the honey, if using, into the creme fraiche or yoghurt. Serve the plums with dollops of the sweetened creme fraiche and a few more flaked almonds as a garnish, if you like.

Lamb and aubergine casserole: what you'll need

2 aubergines, cut into 2.5cm cubes

Olive oil spray

1tbsp olive oil

1 large onion, finely sliced

600g lean lamb leg or shoulder, trimmed of fat and diced

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

Half tsp ground allspice

Half tsp ground cumin

Half tsp ground coriander

Half tsp cayenne or hot chilli powder

Quarter tsp ground cinnamon

400g can of chopped tomatoes

200ml chicken stock or water

1tbsp pomegranate molasses

1tbsp lemon juice

Small bunch of parsley, leaves only, to serve

Salt and black pepper

SERVES 4

Preheat the oven to 220°C/gas 7/425°F. Put the aubergines in a bowl and spritz them with olive oil spray, then turn them over and repeat. Spread the aubergines on a baking tray and roast them in the oven for about 20 minutes, until they're starting to brown.

Heat the olive oil in a large flameproof casserole dish. Add the sliced onion and cook it slowly over a gentle heat for about 10 minutes, until it's soft and translucent, then turn up the heat and add the lamb. Cook until the lamb is well browned, stirring regularly, then reduce the heat and add the garlic and spices. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the tomatoes and the stock or water. Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat, put a lid on the casserole dish and simmer for an hour until the lamb is becoming tender. Add the aubergines and the pomegranate molasses, cover again and cook for another 30 minutes.

Remove the lid from the casserole. If the sauce is very liquid, simmer until it has reduced slightly, then add the lemon juice. Serve sprinkled with parsley.

Bubble and squeak: what you'll need

300g carrots, cut into chunks

300g swede, cut into chunks

10g butter

150g spring greens, cabbage or Brussels sprouts, shredded

1tbsp olive oil

1 small onion, finely chopped

Olive oil spray

Poached or fried eggs, to serve (optional)

Salt and black pepper

SERVES 4

Bring a saucepan of water to the boil. Add the carrots and swede and cook them for about 10 minutes or until tender. Drain thoroughly, then tip them back into the saucepan and leave them over a low heat for a few minutes, just to help steam off any excess liquid. Swede in particular can get quite waterlogged, so this is important.

Mash the carrots and swede with the butter until fairly smooth. Tip the mash into a bowl and leave it to cool, then chill it in the fridge for a while to firm it up.

Wash the greens thoroughly, put them in a saucepan with a little water and cover the pan. Place the pan over heat and cook for a few minutes until the greens have wilted down, then drain them thoroughly and leave them to cool.

When you're ready to cook the bubble and squeak, mix the root veg mash and the greens together and season with salt and pepper.

Heat the oil in a large, non-stick frying pan and gently fry the chopped onion over a medium heat until it's softened and caramelising around the edges. Add this to the veg, then tip everything back into the frying pan and spread the mixture out into a large round.

Cook the bubble and squeak over a medium heat for several minutes until it's nice and brown underneath and cooked through.

Meanwhile, preheat your grill to its highest setting. Spritz the top of the bubble and squeak with olive oil spray, then pop it under the grill for three to four minutes until it's browning around the edges and in patches on top. Cut it into wedges and serve as part of a brunch with poached or fried eggs, if you like.

Belfast Telegraph

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