We all know that food can be therapy, but the preparation can be a chore. Enter chef Catriona Macdougall, who we reckon has hit on something big with her new venture, Cook Yourself Happy, as Dean Bailey discovers
Food and a natter can brighten every day – even the fifth consecutive day of driving rain in July.
Walk into the kitchen of Catriona Macdougall, private chef turned food blogger who has popped up at Vallum Farm for its events and weddings, spend a couple of hours talking about food, the many delights and horrors of private cheffing and just about anything else you can think of,
and you’ll leave feeling much warmer inside.
Trained in her hometown of Edinburgh before working privately around the UK and in Europe and in Glasgow’s famous Ubiquitous Chip, Catriona launched Cook Yourself Happier in late 2016. The blog is home to recipes, video cooking demos and ideas, “for when you feel flat as a pancake and really can’t be bothered, to when you feel tip top terrific as the perfect souffle and everything in between,” as Catriona puts it.
The blog is affiliated with mental health charities Mind, Time to Change and Bipolar UK, and Catriona is hoping to share her knowledge to support people suffering with mental health issues and spread the word of happy cooking and mental health.
An idea born out of reading Ruby Elliot’s It’s All Absolutely Fine, a book of cartoons which tracks her daily struggles with mental health and wanting to use her own skills to help people, Catriona believes the most important thing is cooking to match your mood.
“When I’m feeling down I’d live on peanut butter on toast, though that’s not the best for you.
“So many people jump into junk food when they’re feeling down and can’t be bothered so I wanted to help people make things in advance or have the tools to do things quickly and easily so they have something to grab from the fridge or the freezer on awful days,” explains Catriona. “Soups, juices, individual meals, and things that can be divided and plated up are all easy to do when you’re not feeling your best and take no effort or thought when you’re hungry.”
So what are the secrets? “Keep it simple, seasonal where you can, get as much fruit and vegetables as possible in there and cook things that you like to eat.
“It’s an old idea, but fish really is fantastic for you with all its Omega 3. If you can follow a Mediterranean diet of fish, lean meat, chicken, pasta, fruit and veg, and olive oil – it can make an enormous difference to your mood.
“I’m not a hardcore diet planner. If you make them yourself, without any additives and preservatives, biscuits and cakes are perfectly good for you. If you want to have a blether, which is so important for your mental health, you need a cuppa and a piece of cake don’t you?” A lot brighter, at least on the inside, thanks to blether and a breakfast juice, it’s time to head back into rainy Northumberland.