Former MasterChef contestant Amir Manoly tantalised tastebuds as he whipped up two healthy meals in front of a live audience.
As part of this year’s Veterans’ Health Week theme, ‘Eat Well’, Amir delighted the crowd with fried rice and vegetarian bolognaise.
“Eating vegetables is really important and it’s something we don’t do enough of. I wanted to show we can emulate things like meat. I used mushrooms and blitzed those down into something that looks like and has the consistency of meat.”
As he diced and sliced, he shared tips and tricks to implement nutritious and healthy eating habits into our days.
“We need to have five serves of vegetables a day which seems really daunting, but if you do things like blitzing our vegetables up or chopping them finely and implement them into our three or four dishes we eat a day, it helps us with our intake.”
He says there’s a misconception that eating healthy and making good nutritional choices is unaffordable.
“I cooked with rice today, rice will last for a long time. Purchase seasonal vegetables -- they’re generally on sale because there’s an abundance, grown locally which cut costs -- and chop and change things in a dish. If a dish calls for asparagus and asparagus is nine dollars for a bunch, then maybe grab some broccoli instead. Things like meat, meat is super expensive so why not substitute that with some lentils or legumes.”
Amir believes there is as much to be said about the actual act of cooking as there is to eating.
“Being in the kitchen and that mindfulness you have when you’re, you know, centred and focusing on a task, takes you away from the world and what’s going on around you. Whether it’s 20 minutes or an hour, you’re getting to just focus and be centred and that’s great for your mental health and just staying grounded.”
Some of his fondest memories are of being in the kitchen as a little boy, surrounded by family and enjoying home- cooked meals inspired by his Middle Eastern background.
Amir’s passion for cooking and good food is palpable and he’s channelling it into his two businesses Mister Collective and Fed, both of which are designed to educate and inspire people, including children, to build healthy bodies and minds.
One of the participants in Amir's RSL cooking demonstration was Royal Australian Air Force veteran Megan Homburg.
Maintaining peak fitness during her service was a given. Megan's job took her from sitting behind a desk to deploying overseas, including a six-month tour of Afghanistan.
Megan says since leaving the Air Force in 2018 after 11 and a half years, staying fit and healthy is a challenge.
“To do it on your own without that team, you realise how much harder it is and how much worse you feel. It’s extremely important, it changes your mental health.”
Megan says she’s reinvigorated thanks to Amir’s demonstration.
“It was like a refresher. It’s easy to get slack and I’m going to show my daughter because kids like to be involved. She will learn to eat more healthily because she’s creating it.”
If nothing else, Amir encourages everyone of all ages and backgrounds to think about a balanced meal plan – have some of the bad and more of the good.
But most of all, he encourages people of all ages and stages of life to have fun with food. He admits to cranking up the tunes and having his drink of choice on hand.
“It just makes something that seems like a tedious task a bit more fun!”