Cook happy, cook healthy with Fearne Cotton

Fabulous recipes to make life a lot easier and just that bit healthier…

Welcome to my kitchen. It’s full of people, drenched in noise and a bit of a mess. It’s the engine room of our house where everyone congregates for chaos at breakfast time, catch-ups over cake and tea, and to create a bit of clutter while cooking as a family.

In the past five years my life has changed a lot. At 29, I was a single girl who worked long days but loved going out to gigs most nights. I’d eat out in the evenings or sometimes skip dinner altogether for a few gin and tonics. It was most definitely a chaotic food routine.

Food special: cook happy, cook healthy with Fearne – part one

Now, I find myself a 30-something wife and mum of two children and two stepchildren. I’ve reached a point where I want my food to make me feel great and to have fun while making it. For me, having a family means eating together and having fun cooking and baking. I still love going to gigs and I adore my job but keeping myself, my family and my friends fed and happy is of paramount importance.

As with a lot of modern families, everyone in mine has different tastes and needs around meal times. For those of us who are parents, there can be a lot of ingredient-juggling and sometimes there is little time to prepare and eat good nutritious meals together. I haven’t eaten meat since I was 11 but in my 20s I decided to start eating fish to help get more protein in my diet. I now love to cook fish but have no desire to eat meat again. My husband Jesse eats a mainly pescetarian diet but does enjoy the odd burger now and then. I cook the kids meat because I want them to decide for themselves when they’re older how they want to eat. My mum is vegetarian but my dad loves a sneaky bacon sarnie, while my friends vary from vegan to carnivore. We all want and need different things, and often it doesn’t seem like there’s enough time to consider everyone’s requirements. At weekends or quieter times, cooking doesn’t have to be a crazed rush. I find baking the most cathartic of hobbies and adore coming up with mad concoctions with my stepdaughter Lola and son Rex.

Food special: cook happy, cook healthy with Fearne – part one

Cooking and baking come in two different forms: for necessity and for fun. Either way, whatever I’m cooking at home, I like to do it in a healthy way where possible. This doesn’t have to be boring or overly expensive, but it will make you, your family and friends feel so much better. I try to keep away from refined sugar as much as I can and to reduce the kids’ intake where possible. This isn’t always easy, but replacing some of their sweet treats with delicious alternatives using natural sweeteners is so much better for them in the long run.

I want to know exactly what I’m putting in my body and I use as many wholesome, natural and vitalising ingredients as I can. Processed food can do one! Your body doesn’t like it on the day you’ve eaten it and it certainly doesn’t like it long term.

Most of the food you put in your body should have ingredients that make your skin glow, your hair shine, your body feel energised, your eyes bright and you happy.

Happiness is definitely a big part of the book. If you’re eating things that benefit you physically it will most definitely improve your mood, too. When life is so fast-paced, it can be easy to forget how intrinsically linked the body and mind are. Your mind, body and soul are one big melting pot of wonder that makes you who you are, so keep them all happy. Eating well means your body will be happy, your brain will be happy and you will be happy. Isn’t feeling full of joy, contentment and happiness what we are all striving for? I believe good, nutritious food has a lot to do with this. Being on a restrictive and bland diet to lose weight will never make you happy. Eating lots of fried, sugary and processed foods for a quick buzz doesn’t offer long-term happiness and worrying about what you’re eating the whole time will dull any sign of joy in a second. We are all joy-seekers so let’s get in the kitchen, cook happy and cook healthy, and feel the love!

Food special: cook happy, cook healthy with Fearne – part one

Quick & easy quinoa bowl

This is by far the most frequently made recipe in the book – I cook it up at least once a week. Quinoa is a great base for a meal as it’s packed with protein and gives you energy for the rest of the day, minus that sluggish feeling. When I’ve got a busy day rushing around, this is my go-to lunch. You can have fun and switch the veg for any others you have to hand, and add some cheese, chorizo or eggs, too, if you fancy.



300g quinoa, rinsed

3 tbsp coconut or

olive oil

½ tsp ground cumin

½ tsp ground


2 carrots, halved

lengthways and very

thinly sliced

1 leek, trimmed,

halved lengthways

and thinly sliced

1 courgette,

roughly chopped

large handful of

kale, rinsed, dried,

tough stems

removed and leaves

finely chopped

3 cloves garlic,


4 tbsp dried


2 tbsp roasted

cashew nuts

handful of fresh

flat-leaf parsley

leaves, chopped

sea salt and freshly

ground black pepper



poached eggs

a few slices of chorizo, fried with the vegetables

a few slices of halloumi cheese, fried on both sides until golden



1 In a saucepan (with a lid), bring the quinoa to the boil in double its quantity of salted water. Once the water has come to the boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer gently for about 12 minutes, until the water has been absorbed. Remove from the heat, stir in 1 tablespoon of the coconut or olive oil and add the ground cumin and coriander. Leave to one side, uncovered.

2 While the quinoa is cooking, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of the coconut or olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium-high heat. Add the carrots, chorizo (if using), leek, courgette and kale and sauté for about 6 minutes. Add the garlic and fry for a further minute until fragrant and all the vegetables are cooked through, but retain a little bite. Add the vegetables to the cooked quinoa, together with the dried cranberries, cashew nuts and most of the parsley. Stir to combine and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve the quinoa scattered with the remaining parsley, and top with poached eggs or halloumi, if using.


I use quinoa a lot in my recipes and it’s a fantastic alternative to starchy carbohydrates such as white rice and pasta. When it’s in the packet it looks terribly boring and worthy, but it’s what you do with it that counts. Quinoa is easy to cook, full of protein and is wheat- and gluten-free. It can be creamy and fluffy or crunchy and nutty depending on how you cook it. It is one of the most versatile of all ingredients, which is why I love it.

Food special: cook happy, cook healthy with Fearne – part one

Pan-fried king prawns with feta, herb & rocket salad

You don’t need tons of ingredients to make a full-bodied, satisfying dish and this salad proves that. The zingy, punchy flavours of the dressing go so well with the warm and spicy prawns. Sometimes the simplest salads are the best.



100g rocket leaves

handful each of fresh flat-leaf

parsley and basil leaves,

roughly chopped

50g pecan nuts, roasted

(see method)

2 spring onions, thinly sliced

10 baby radishes, thinly sliced

120g feta, crumbled

4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

juice of ½ lemon

1 tsp wholegrain mustard

2 cloves garlic, crushed

3cm piece of root ginger,

peeled and finely grated

2 tsp soy sauce

2 tsp toasted sesame oil

2 tsp honey

2 tsp vegetable oil

300g raw shelled king prawns

(tails left on if you like)



1 Toss the rocket with the herbs, nuts, spring onions and radishes and place on a serving dish, then scatter over the feta.

2 Whisk the olive oil with the lemon juice and mustard in a small bowl to make a dressing and set aside. In another bowl, mix together the garlic, ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil and honey.

3 Heat the vegetable oil in a frying pan over a high heat. Once very hot, add the prawns and cook for 1 minute, then turn them over, add the garlic and ginger sauce and fry for a further minute until cooked through.

4 Scatter the prawns over the salad, then pour over the olive oil and lemon dressing, toss together and serve immediately.

NUT ROASTING Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/350F/ gas 4. Spread out the nuts on a baking tray and roast them in the oven for 6-7 minutes, or until they are a shade darker and aromatic. You can check them by cutting a nut in half: the centre should be golden in colour. Keep a close eye on them as they may need a minute or two more or less, depending on your oven.

Food special: cook happy, cook healthy with Fearne – part one

Sri Lankan vegetable curry (with fish option & brown rice)

Many moons ago, before Rex and Honey came along, Jesse and I went on a far-flung adventure to Sri Lanka. It is such a vibrant country where the people smile from the heart and the food is made with care. On the entire trip, there wasn’t a dish I didn’t love. This curry is inspired by the flavours we encountered and the warmth Sri Lankan food provides. I love adding fish to this as it gives an extra boost of protein and makes it even more hearty.



1½ tbsp coconut or sunflower oil

10 fresh curry leaves (optional)

1 onion, finely chopped

5cm piece of root ginger, peeled and finely grated

5 cloves garlic, crushed

½ tsp ground turmeric

½ tsp ground cinnamon

1½ tbsp mild curry powder

½ tsp chilli powder (optional)

1 tsp garam masala

1 tsp sweet smoked paprika

16 cherry tomatoes, halved

2 x 400ml cans full-fat coconut milk

2 carrots, thinly sliced

1 green pepper, deseeded and cut into bite-sized chunks

200g skinless and boneless cod or sea bass fillets, cut into bite-sized pieces (optional)

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 spring onion, finely sliced, to serve

cooked brown rice, to serve



1 Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the curry leaves (if using) and fry for 2-3 minutes until the leaves begin to crisp up and brown. Add the onion and ginger and sauté gently for 5 minutes until the onion has softened, then add the garlic and fry for a further minute until aromatic. Add the spices, tomatoes, half a teaspoon of salt and a good grind of black pepper. Fry for a further 2 minutes until aromatic, then add the coconut milk, carrots and green pepper.

2 Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20-25 minutes until the vegetables are cooked through and the sauce has reduced down a little. If you are using fish, add it for the last 5 minutes of cooking time, until just cooked through.

3 Serve with the spring onion scattered over the top and rice alongside.


Food special: cook happy, cook healthy with Fearne – part one

Marinated tofu & avocado salad


This is a fresh, flavour-packed lunch, bursting with nutrients. It’s super-speedy to make and looks pretty, too. If you prepare the tofu the night before and leave it in the fridge, this becomes an even quicker lunch to make the next day. You could also double the quantity of marinated tofu and use the other half to make the tofu casserole in my book.




400g firm tofu

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to serve

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar, plus extra to serve

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 ripe avocado, halved, stone removed

100g rocket leaves

½ red onion, halved and thinly sliced

10 cherry tomatoes, halved grated

zest of 1 unwaxed lemon

1 tsp poppy seeds

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper



1 Gently wrap the tofu in a clean tea towel. Place it on a chopping board and balance another chopping board or heavy plate on top. Leave to one side for 10 minutes to drain.

2 Meanwhile, combine the olive oil, vinegar, garlic and a pinch of salt and pepper in a bowl. Unwrap the tofu, cut it into 2cm cubes and add it to the bowl. Gently combine with the marinade, cover and leave in the fridge for at least 1 hour, or overnight.

3 When you are ready to make the salad, simply slice the avocado flesh and combine it with the rocket, onion, tomatoes, lemon zest, poppy seeds and marinated tofu. Season with a little salt and pepper and a drizzle of oil and balsamic vinegar to taste. Serve immediately.


TOP TOFU This soya bean product gets a bad rap, probably because it’s so often cooked badly or not marinated properly. It’s a great source of protein that is an important nutritional staple in many vegetarian diets. I use firm tofu for stir-fries and stews and the silken variety in desserts to create a mousse-like texture.

Food special: cook happy, cook healthy with Fearne – part one

Jesse’s roast chicken

This is Jesse’s speciality. We often have family over on a Sunday and they all look forward to tucking into this dish. Although I don’t eat chicken, my family rave about the flavours from the herbs and the hint of lemon that creeps through. It’s a classic that makes a weekend that bit more special. Serve this up with any veg you desire. It goes particularly well with the Maple-Glazed Carrots, Pan-Fried Broccoli with Chilli Flakes and Crispy Garlic, and Pan-Fried Courgette with Cumin and Goat’s cheese from my book, as pictured.




1.8kg free-range chicken

20g fresh basil, stalks removed, leaves finely chopped

10g fresh tarragon, stalks removed, leaves finely chopped

4 tbsp olive oil

1 lemon

3 red onions, halved

1 bulb of garlic, separated into cloves (no need to peel)

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


1 Remove the chicken from the fridge 30 minutes before cooking. Preheat the oven to 220C/200C fan/425F/gas 7.

2 Combine the chopped herbs with 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Place the chicken in a large roasting dish and coat it thoroughly with the herby oil, making sure it gets into all the nooks and crannies.

3 Stab the lemon a few times with a sharp knife or fork and place it in the cavity of the bird. Toss the onion halves and garlic cloves in the remaining oil, season well with salt and pepper and leave to one side.


4 Put the roasting dish in the preheated oven, immediately turn the temperature down to 200C/180C fan/400F/gas 6, and roast the chicken for 1 hour, basting it halfway through with its own cooking juices, then add the onion and garlic cloves to the dish and roast for a further 30 minutes.

5 While the chicken is cooking, prepare your chosen accompaniments.

6 Once the chicken is cooked, remove it from the oven, cover with foil and leave to rest for 15-20 minutes. Once rested, serve the chicken on a board or platter with the onion and garlic surrounding it.

Food special: cook happy, cook healthy with Fearne – part one


Spaghetti bolognese


This dish is another winner with the kids. My son Rex normally isn’t too keen on red meat but will scoff this by the shovel-load. It takes a bit of time to cook but after a little prep, it will just simmer away and you can get on with other things. It also freezes very well, so it’s worth making double the quantity to freeze half for another day. I use a combination of minced pork and beef, but it could be made with just one or the other, if you prefer.





2 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

1 stick celery,

finely chopped

1 carrot, finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, crushed

good pinch of ground freshly grated nutmeg

200g minced pork

250g minced beef

250ml chicken stock

400g can chopped tomatoes

25 cherry tomatoes, halved

450g spaghetti

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Parmesan cheese, grated, to serve


1 Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the onion, celery and carrot and sauté gently for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until they start to soften and the onions are translucent. Add the garlic and nutmeg and fry for a further 2 minutes, taking care not to let the garlic burn.

2 Add the minced pork and beef, 1 teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper. Fry for about 5 minutes, breaking up any lumps of mince with a wooden spoon, until the meat is no longer pink and is just beginning to brown.

3 Increase the heat to high, add the stock and let it bubble and reduce for 3 minutes, then stir in the canned and fresh tomatoes, reduce the heat to the lowest setting and simmer very gently for at least 1 hour, stirring from time to time to prevent the bolognese from catching on the bottom of the pan. If you prefer a thicker sauce, cook for a further 30 minutes to reduce it further. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary with a little more salt and pepper.

4 Ten minutes before the end of the cooking time, cook the spaghetti according to the packet instructions. Drain and add it to the pan of bolognese, stirring well to combine. Serve in deep bowls, with grated Parmesan on top.

Food special: cook happy, cook healthy with Fearne – part one

Death by chocolate cake


This is the dream cake for a big occasion and one of my all-time favourite cakes to make as a birthday treat for a friend. It looks utterly devilish but contains no refined sugar or dairy. No one will believe it is sin-free! The thickness of the cream in cans of coconut milk varies, so try out a few different brands.







300g white spelt

flour, sifted

100g unsweetened

cocoa powder

1½ tsp bicarbonate of soda

2 tsp baking powder

½ tsp fine sea salt

2 tsp vanilla extract

350g maple syrup or honey

460ml almond milk (homemade from the book or shop-bought) or rice milk

150g coconut oil, melted, plus extra for greasing

1½ tsp cider vinegar



3 x 400ml cans full-fat coconut milk, chilled overnight

5 tbsp set honey

5 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tsp vanilla extract

good pinch of fine sea salt



handful of fresh strawberries, hulled and halved

chocolate shards (optional, see the book for homemade)

1 tsp icing sugar (optional)



1 Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/350F/gas 4. Lightly grease two 20cm springform round cake tins and line the bases with baking parchment.

2 To make the sponge, combine all the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, mix together all the wet ingredients except the vinegar. Add the liquid mixture to the flour mixture and fold together. Stir the vinegar into the mixture, then immediately divide evenly between the prepared cake tins. Bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre of the cakes comes out fairly clean. Remove the cakes from the oven and leave to cool for 10 minutes, then carefully turn them out on to a wire rack to cool completely.

3 To make the icing, remove the cans of coconut milk from the fridge without shaking them. Remove the lids and carefully scoop out the very firm, set coconut cream at the top, leaving the coconut water in the cans (don’t throw the water away – use it to make soups, curries, porridge or smoothies). Add the thick coconut cream to the bowl of a food processor, followed by the set honey, cocoa powder, vanilla extract and salt, and blitz until completely smooth. Transfer to a bowl, cover and chill for at least 30 minutes.

4 Once the cakes are completely cool (this is important, otherwise the icing will melt), ice both layers and create a sandwich.

5 Decorate the top with the strawberries and, if wished, chocolate shards and a light dusting of icing sugar.

Food special: cook happy, cook healthy with Fearne – part one


Banana bread

This recipe is an ode to my dear husband Jesse, who would happily live off banana bread if he had a choice. Every time his band rehearse, he asks if I can make them one of these to demolish during their break. Full of flavour, it’s a healthy twist on the classic and a great source of slow-release energy. If you’re a first-time baker, this easy recipe is a really good starting point. Eat it by the slice, spread it with your favourite topping, or bake it for a friend. It’s a real crowd-pleaser.




100g coconut oil, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing

150g coconut palm sugar

2 medium eggs, beaten

2 very ripe bananas, peeled and mashed with a fork

3 tbsp almond milk (homemade from the book or shop-bought) or rice milk

150g white or wholegrain spelt flour, sifted

2½ tsp mixed spice

½ tsp fine sea salt

2 tsp baking powder

60g walnuts, roughly chopped

20g chia seeds



1 Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/350F/gas 4. Grease a 1kg (10cm x 20cm) loaf tin and line the base and sides with baking parchment.

2 Place the coconut oil and sugar in a large bowl and cream together until light and fluffy. Then beat in the eggs by hand or with an electric hand-held mixer, a little at a time, followed by the mashed bananas and almond or rice milk, mixing until well combined.

3 Combine the remaining ingredients in a separate bowl. Gradually fold the dry ingredients into the coconut oil and sugar mixture until it just comes together. Don’t over-mix as it will make the banana bread tough.

4 Transfer the mixture to the lined loaf tin and bake for about 50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the middle of the loaf comes out clean. If the top is browning too quickly, cover it with foil. Remove from the oven and let it cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then turn it out on to a wire rack to cool completely.

5 The cake is best eaten the day it’s made, but it will keep for up to 3 days in an airtight container and it can be frozen for up to 2 months. Serve with anything you like: coconut oil, jam or nut butter work well.

Food special: cook happy, cook healthy with Fearne – part one

My basic cupcakes


I love a cheeky cupcake and these are the prettiest, most delicious of treats that are kind to your body. Regular cupcakes are crammed with sugar, leaving you in a flop shortly after eating them, but these gems allow you to bypass all of that. There’s also the bonus of them being free from dairy, making them feel very light without compromising on flavour. These cakes are darker in colour than their traditional counterparts on account of the coconut palm sugar, which imparts a rich caramel flavour. Top these with my basic cupcake icing (see opposite, and different flavours in my book).





125g coconut palm sugar

125g coconut oil, at room temperature

2 eggs, beaten

½ tsp vanilla extract

125g white spelt flour, sifted

2 tsp baking powder



1 Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/350F/gas 4 and line a 12-hole muffin tray with paper cases.

2 Place the coconut palm sugar and coconut oil in a bowl, and cream together with a wooden spoon or an electric hand-held whisk until light and well combined. Beat in the eggs, a little at a time, then add the vanilla extract, and fold in the flour and baking powder until combined.

3 Half fill each of the paper cases with the mixture, then bake in the oven for 13-15 minutes, until risen and golden. A skewer inserted in the centre of one should come out clean.

4 Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool completely before covering with icing.

5 Once cooled, ice the cupcakes with my basic cupcake icing (opposite).

Basic cupcake icing

Icing can be overly sweet and sickly so I much prefer this lighter recipe as I don’t suffer from a shaky, sugary high afterwards. If you love dairy, use full-fat cream cheese, but I often use the dairy-free version as it works just as well. Simply add different flavours to your base to give your cupcakes more personality. In the book you’ll find my Lavender and Honey, Apple and Cinnamon, and Lemon variations. The coconut cream icing from my Cherry Berry Sponge Cake (see next week’s magazine) also works a treat.


250g dairy-free or regular cream cheese

4 tbsp set honey

100g coconut oil, melted



1 Put the cream cheese and honey in a food processor and blitz until smooth. With the motor running, pour in the melted coconut oil and blitz briefly until fully incorporated.

2 When you are ready to serve, ice the cupcakes using a spoon or piping bag, then arrange on a serving plate.


Food special: cook happy, cook healthy with Fearne – part one

Ronnie’s fruit cake


My father-in-law Ronnie Wood loves a fruit cake so this recipe is for him. It’s a classic with a healthy twist. The fruit is soaked in tea overnight so has a rich and full-bodied flavour. I love to make this cake and give it to people as a gift wrapped in parchment and a ribbon.


SERVES 10-12



200g sultanas

200g currants

350ml cold black or chai tea

250g white spelt flour, sifted

200g coconut palm sugar

½ tsp mixed spice

½ tsp ground cinnamon

grated zest of 1 unwaxed lemon

2 tsp baking powder

2 medium eggs, beaten vegetable oil, for greasing



1 Place the sultanas and currants in a bowl, cover with the cold tea, and leave to steep overnight, covered, at room temperature.

2 The next day, preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/400F/gas 6. Grease a 1kg (10cm x 20cm) loaf tin and line with baking parchment.

3 Add the remaining ingredients to a bowl together with the soaked sultanas and currants, and the liquid they were steeped in. Mix together until thoroughly combined.

4 Pour the mixture into the prepared loaf tin and bake in the oven for 1 hour 30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. If it looks like the top of the cake is going to burn at any point during baking, cover with foil.

5 Remove the cake from the oven and leave it to cool for 10 minutes before turning it out on to a wire rack to cool completely.

6 Serve cut into slices with coconut oil or butter, or just as it is, with a cup of tea, of course. It will keep well in an airtight container for up to a week.


Food special: cook happy, cook healthy with Fearne – part one

Fruit whip


I created this dessert in a mad-professor style. I had heard you could use silken tofu in puddings so got to work blending up different flavour combinations. The tofu is a healthy base to replace the cream you would normally use in a dessert like this, and once set it has a gorgeous, creamy texture. It looks very alluring served in a glass dish after dinner, but I sometimes eat it for breakfast as the tofu is a brilliant source of protein. You can make it up to a day in advance, so it’s super-convenient, too.





400g silken tofu

100g blueberries, plus extra to serve

2 ripe nectarines or peaches, halved and stones removed

10 dried unsulphured apricots

2 tbsp coconut oil, melted

100ml almond milk (homemade from the book or shop-bought) or coconut milk

grated zest of 1 unwaxed lemon recipes

a pinch of sea salt



1 Put all the ingredients (except one of the nectarines) in the bowl of a food processor or in a high-speed blender and blitz until completely smooth. Divide the mixture among 4 small glasses, cover and chill for at least 2 hours.

2 When ready to serve, cut the remaining nectarine into wedges. Top each glass with blueberries and wedges of nectarine and serve immediately.


Food special: cook happy, cook healthy with Fearne – part one



Our recipes are from Cook Happy, Cook Healthy by Fearne Cotton, to be published on 2 June by Orion, price £20. As well as Fearne’s introduction and store cupboard know-how, chapters cover breakfast, drinks, easy lunches, healthy snacks, dinner in a dash, the big night in, weekend classics, the bakery, and desserts and treats. To pre-order a copy for £16 (a 20 per cent discount) until 12 June, visit or call 0844 571 0640; p&p is free on orders over £15.

Photographs Tamin Jones

Extracted from Cook Happy, Cook Healthy by Fearne Cotton

More fab Fearne recipes next week…