Canada’s latest healthy eating initiative

Craig and Marc Keilburger, Jamie Oliver and Marc Poulin celebrating their new healthy-eating initiative. Image: Rob Poulton By Bonnie Munday


Craig and Marc Keilburger, Jamie Oliver and Marc Poulin celebrating their new healthy-eating initiative. Image: Rob Poulton

By Bonnie Munday

There he goes again, doing good’and this time, Canada’s schools will benefit. Jamie Oliver was in Toronto recently to join Sobey’s and Free the Children in announcing a new initiative: The Sobey’s Inc. Better Food Fund.

It seems the perfect three-pronged partnership. The grocery store chain’s mission is to help Canadians ‘eat better, feel better and do better’. To that end, Sobey’s is contributing $500,000 to a new program called Home Cook Heroes, developed in partnership with Free the Children (an international charity begun by Canadians Craig and Marc Keilburger that has helped kids worldwide rise out of poverty). Home Cook Heroes is curriculum-based and will provide students aged 12-17 across our country with nutrition literacy, food awareness and basic cooking skills, with the hope of inspiring them to establish a healthy long-term relationship with food. This is a valuable message that we at Best Health have long promoted through contributions by by Stratford, Ont.-based chef and teacher Paul Finkelstein, sometimes referred to as ‘Canada’s Jamie Oliver.’

So where does Britain’s most famous chef fit into this? About a year ago, Oliver started a partnership with Sobey’s to promote healthier eating among Canadians, and this is the next step in that partnership. The two seem to be a good match; Marc Poulin, Sobey’s president and CEO, told me in an interview, ‘What we are trying to achieve as a company matches so well what Jamie Oliver has been trying to achieve. We want to do our part and, basically, we want Canadian families and kids to be in the kitchen and not be afraid of cooking.’

Oliver has long promoted the message that knowing how to cook is an essential life skill. ‘Once you know that, you’re set up for life,’ he says. ‘I’m excited that Sobey’s is empowering youth to make better food choices and live happier, healthier lives.’

At the Better Food Fund announcement in Toronto, kids cooked up a storm, following along as Jamie Oliver described how to make a chicken satay recipe from his new cookbook, Jamie’s Comfort Food.

I’m really excited to see how this plays out in schools across Canada. I also got the chance to sit down with Jamie Oliver one-to-one and ask him questions about his own healthy lifestyle:

Q: What do you do to keep fit?
A: ‘I run three times a week. I do like to cycle, but someone just nicked my bike! I also do weight-bearing strength exercises. And I eat healthy.’

Q: With your crazy busy schedule of TV shows, your restaurants, writing cookbooks and participatiing great initiatives like the one today, how do you handle stress?
A: ‘I have to get a good sleep; it regulates blood sugar and is so important on so many levels. To handle stress, I also surround myself with people I’m comfortable with. And family of course is number 1.’

Q: Do you think Canadians eat healthy?
A: ‘I think North America has some work to do. In Britain, because of EU rules, GM [genetically modified] foods are regulated, hormones (in animal products) are regulated; you don’t have that here.’

Q: Your latest cookbook is Jamie’s Comfort Food. Is there such a thing as healthy comfort food?
A: ‘I don’t know about you, but to me it’s not about strict diets; it’s about balance. I follow the Monday to Thursday healthy-eating rule; after that, it should be about making brilliant memories through cooking and enjoying food.’

Enjoy this recipe from Jamie’s Comfort Food for Chicken Tikka Masala.

Image: © Jamie Oliver Enterprises (2014 Jamie’s Comfort Food) Photographer: David Loftus

Jamie Oliver’s Chicken Tikka Masala

Without question, chicken tikka masala is a brilliant curry that makes people very happy. Of course it’s inspired by fantastic Indian cooking, but is in fact an Anglo-Indian evolution, created to suit British palates. When you make it, you’ll be super-proud ‘ you can use top-quality chicken, it’s loads of fun to marinate and grill, the method rocks, and it’s highly unlikely you’ll find a better expression. I love to make my own paratha breads to serve with it too (page 19). Dig a hole in the garden and get grilling!


1 level teaspoon ground cloves
1 level teaspoon ground cumin
2 heaped teaspoons each sweet smoked paprika, garam masala
3 lemons
6 cloves of garlic
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger
6 heaped tablespoons natural yoghurt
800g skinless boneless chicken breasts
3 fresh green or yellow chillies

2 onions
4 cloves of garlic
1’2 fresh red chillies
1 bunch of fresh coriander (30g)
olive oil
1 level tablespoon ground coriander
2 level teaspoons turmeric
6 tablespoons ground almonds
2 x 400g tins of plum tomatoes
1 chicken stock cube
2 x 400g tins of light coconut milk

Put the cloves, cumin and 1 heaped teaspoon each of paprika and garam masala into a small pan and toast for 1 minute to bring them back to life, then tip into a large bowl. Finely grate in the zest of 1 lemon, squeeze in all its juice, crush in the garlic, peel and finely grate in the ginger, and add the yoghurt and 1 teaspoon of sea salt. Cut the chicken breasts into 5cm chunks, then massage all that flavour into the meat. Skewer up the chicken chunks, interspersing them with lemon wedges and chunks of green or yellow chilli, but don’t squash them together too much. Place on a tray, cover with clingfilm and marinate in the fridge for at least 2 hours, but preferably overnight.

For the sauce, peel the onions and garlic, then finely slice with the red chillies and coriander stalks (reserving the leaves for later). Put it all into a large casserole pan on a medium-high heat with a lug of oil and cook for around 20 minutes, or until golden, stirring regularly. Add the ground coriander, turmeric and remaining 1 heaped teaspoon each of paprika and garam masala. Cook for 2 minutes, then add and toast the almonds. Pour in the tomatoes, crumble in the stock cube and add 300ml of boiling water. Simmer for 5 minutes, then stir in the coconut milk. Simmer for a final 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, then season to perfection.

When you’re ready to cook the chicken, drizzle it with a little oil, then grill on a hot barbecue, in a screaming hot griddle pan or under a hot grill, turning until it’s very golden and gnarly on all sides. Slice the chicken off the skewers straight into the sauce, reserving the lemons. Simmer for 2 minutes while you use tongs to squeeze some jammy lemons over the curry, to taste. Swirl through some more yoghurt, sprinkle with the coriander leaves, and serve with parathas (page 19) or fluffy basmati rice.

Jamie’s Comfort Food by Jamie Oliver is published by Penguin Books and in Canada by HarperCollins Publishers Ltd.