Luke Matthews is Head Chef and Educator at Airfield Estate, Dundrum, Dublin.
Airfield Estate will run a series of events for adults and children over the coming months including a one day Young Chefs course which will teach children to cook safely and healthy using ingredients from Airfields cottage garden as well as four day Halloween camps including Young Chefs and Forest Camps during the midterm break.
For more information go to www.airfield.ie
Where do you shop?
I try and keep it local as much as possible, I get to a farmer’s market once a week to get veggies and go to butcher and fishmongers for good quality meat and fish.
Can you list the contents of your weekly shop?
I don’t do a weekly shop as such, every couple days I pick up ingredients for the next couple of meals depending on what I’m feeling like. It changes pretty regularly and I try to avoid eating meat as a protein most days and eat fish or veggie meals instead. I buy lots of fresh vegetables and items to keep the larder ticking over regularly.
Describe your typical breakfast
Coffee, orange juice and a quick bite, like toast.
Describe your typical lunch
Unfortunately, I generally miss lunch as that’s the busiest time in the restaurant. But I’ll have staff breakfast at about 11am. It’s generally eggs and toast which get me through until it’s time for an afternoon snack.
I try to keep meat to a couple times a week, fish at least once a week and then go vegetarian for the rest. I enjoy making vegetable curries using lentils, grains and pulses. I try and vary the carbs as well so it’s not always potatoes and always lots of veggies done a couple different ways — both raw and cooked.
Is there anything you won’t eat?
Jellyfish. The texture is not pleasant.
What would you cook to impress someone?
A good braise, like short ribs of beef cooked for four or five hours, smoked mash and gravy.
What is your guilty food pleasure?
I never feel guilty about eating!
What is your ultimate comfort food?
What is your favourite takeaway?
Really good thin crust pizza.
Have you tried any diet fads in the past six months?
What would your Last Supper?
Roast dinner, all the trimmings, good wine and family and friends around.
I really like to see Luke’s dedication to buying local, high-quality fresh produce, meat and fish. With so many huge discount supermarket chains taking over, supporting local businesses has become more important now than ever before. It’s also important to keep in mind that seasonal, local produced foods tend to be fresher and higher in certain key nutrients than those flown halfway around the world. They generally benefit your health and the environment more, plus many people believe that eating according to the seasons is one of the best ways to support good health year round. Think lighter, water-rich raw veggies in summertime and satiating, warming root vegetables in autumn and winter.
Luke appears to take an equally as conscientious approach to his shopping list, picking up foods every few days depending on what he fancies eating. However, he is consistent about avoiding animal protein foods for about four nights of the week. Adding in so many vegetarian meals is a super way to add plenty of variety, dietary fibre and key vitamins and minerals to your diet, while avoiding the cholesterol found in meats. There’s no need to lose out on protein by avoiding meat either, as whole grains, beans, pulses, nuts and seeds are all great ways to add complete protein to your diet. Plant foods are also rich in antioxidants to help reduce the effects of everyday cellular damage by free radicals. We’re exposed each day by pollution, cigarette smoke, chemicals in foods we eat amongst many more sources, which is why eating a wide range of colourful fresh fruit and veggies is so crucial to supporting good health. Focusing on a plant-based diet for even a few days of the week can help to ensure you’re getting a greater range of phytochemicals into your system.
Coffee, toast and orange juice feature in Luke’s normal breakfast. Research shows coffee has certain health benefits but as a diuretic, it’s a good idea to make sure you’re well hydrated when drinking coffee regularly. While fresh orange juice is certainly a better choice than brands with added refined sugar or even fizzy drinks, even natural fruit juice is high in sugar and that can effect your blood sugar levels. Freshly squeezed orange juice does contain vitamin C but it lacks the fibre needed to slow down the rate that its fructose hits your bloodstream, meaning a blood sugar high and subsequent crash can occur. This may affect insulin sensitivity over time, leading to potential health complications. As a key fat-storing hormone, being able to understand and control everyday insulin response is important for long-term weight management too.
Luke’s mid-morning meal of eggs and toast keeps him going through lunchtime until his mid-afternoon snack. Eggs are a super source of complete protein to help keep him feeling full for a busy afternoon at work. It’s a better idea to choose wholemeal or seeded bread over white for the extra fibre, important for normal digestive health. I would also suggest that Luke adds a side of lightly sautéed spinach or another type of green vegetable to increase his daily intake of greens. They can really help to boost energy levels due to their iron and chlorophyll content.
For his evening meal, Luke goes for a super variety of vegetarian grains and pulses, plus fish and meat dishes. He adds in various carbohydrate sources too, so that he receives a wide range of different nutrients. Sweet potato, butternut squash, brown rice and quinoa are considered quality carbohydrate sources, packed with fibre and nutrients including essential minerals.
Luke’s diet is generally well-considered and a super balance of different types of protein and carb sources. He eats minimal processed food or refined sugar and seems to eat intuitively. My advice is to include vegetables with every meal when possible and to ensure he’s getting plenty of healthy fats each day, from sources including avocado, walnuts, salmon and ground flaxseed. Well done Luke.