Mimi Spencer and Sam Rice, authors of The Midlife Kitchen, tell Ella Walker their thoughts on cooking, eating and living well

THE key to really eating well, and not forcing yourself to eat sad salad after sad salad - particularly when you hit the mid-life stage - is to focus on taste and flavour above everything.

Well, this is what cookbook authors Mimi Spencer, 50, and Sam Rice, 48, believe: “Just because something is healthy, you don’t have to eat it - we’d rather get our greens fix from a nice watercress soup than a wheatgrass shot.”

The food writer friends first met at the school gates and are now celebrating the paperback version of their recipe collection, The Midlife Cookbook, which dishes up recipes big on taste as well as nutrition, targeted for those facing middle-age...

What nudged you to tackle the middle chunk of human life in cookbook form?

When you hit midlife, it is often a time for reflection on where you are and what you still want to do with your life. We both came to realise the limiting factor for most people as they get older is their health. If you look after yourself, you can still look forward to a good, long healthspan (we prefer this term to lifespan), which is the number of fit, functional years ahead. So where better to start than with food?

What should people be most aware of nutrition-wise during this period of their life?

As we age, there are two key things that happen relating to food: First, we need fewer calories overall as our metabolism slows, and secondly, we become less efficient at digesting the food we do eat. In practical terms, we need to eat nutrient-dense foods in order to get adequate nutrition from fewer calories. Foods that fit the bill include plenty of colourful fruit and veg, eggs, full-fat yogurt, lean (mainly non-meat) protein and nuts and seeds. It’s not rocket science, but the trick is to get these ingredients on to your fork in the tastiest way possible.

How can people best shake up their approach to cooking and food?

Shift food and cooking up the priority list a little. We all have to eat, and so instead of seeing it as a time-consuming inconvenience, it’s more helpful to view it as an important investment in ourselves. In practice, this means taking a bit of time to plan for the week ahead and get the ingredients in. The other important thing is to have a really good store-cupboard of basics.

Raw Pad Thai (serves 2)

This uncooked pad Thai is a fresh take on a takeaway classic. “One of our Midlife mantras is to embrace variety - and the sheer abundance of flavour, texture and colour here will clearly do wonders for you,” say cookbook writers Mimi Spencer and Sam Rice.

“It’s a rainbow of raw excellence, brought together with a terrific tangy dressing guaranteed to transport you to a Koh Samui beach.

“You’ll need a bit of time to chop and slice, but otherwise it’s a doddle. Add cubes of tofu or cooked prawns for a more substantial meal.” Chopping boards at the ready...

1 small carrot, peeled and cut into thin strips, shaved or shredded 1 small courgette, finely sliced or cut into thin strips 50g red cabbage, very thinly sliced 50g sugar snap peas, sliced 1/2 a pepper (orange, yellow or red), deseeded and thinly sliced 2 spring onions, sliced diagonally 1 mild red chilli, deseeded and thinly sliced A handful of bean sprouts A handful of coriander leaves A handful of mint leaves, plus sprigs to serve For the dressing: 2tbsp coconut milk Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lime 1tbsp crunchy peanut butter (100% peanuts, no sugar) 2tsp soy sauce 2tsp tahini 1tsp Thai fish sauce (nam pla) 1tsp sesame oil 1tsp maple syrup 1cm piece of fresh root ginger, peeled and finely grated 1 garlic clove, crushed 1 lemon grass stalk, tough outer layers removed, finely chopped To serve: 20g peanuts, crushed 2tsp sesame seeds Mint sprigs Place all the vegetables and herbs in a large bowl and mix well.

Place all the dressing ingredients in a jar, seal with the lid and shake well until combined.

Pour the dressing over the salad and toss well, then arrange on a serving plate. Top with the peanuts, seeds and extra mint sprigs and serve.

Pumpkin and Ginger Cheesecake (serves 8)

It doesn’t have to be autumn to enjoy pumpkin, you know. Also, these vibrant veg have “been shown in studies to have an anti-diabetic effect, which means it can help stabilise and control blood-glucose levels”, say The Midlife Kitchen cookery book writers, Mimi Spencer and Sam Rice - and that’s even in cheesecake form.

125g Midlife LSA (see below) or ground almonds 2tsp ground ginger 75g Medjool dates, pitted and finely chopped 2tbsp coconut oil, melted if solid 1 egg white, lightly whisked

For the Midlife LSA (makes approx 12tbsp - store in the fridge): 6tbsp flaxseeds (another name for linseeds) 4tbsp sunflower seeds 2tbsp whole almonds (skin on)

For the filling: 250g ricotta cheese 150g thick Greek yogurt 400g can pumpkin puree (100% pumpkin) 60ml runny honey 2 large eggs 2tbsp lemon juice 2tsp ground cinnamon 1tbsp peeled and finely grated fresh root ginger

To serve: A handful of fresh raspberries More runny honey for drizzling Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4. Line a 20cm springform cake tin with greaseproof paper.

Using a coffee grinder or spice mill, pulse the Midlife LSA ingredients in batches until finely ground.

To make the cheesecake base, combine the LSA (or ground almonds if using), ground ginger, dates and coconut oil in a bowl. Mix well, using your fingers to create a crumb, ensuring the dates are evenly distributed. Press the mixture firmly into the bottom of the prepared tin, then brush it with egg white (this keeps the base layer crisp) and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely.

Reduce the oven temperature to 160°C/Gas Mark 3.

To make the filling, put the ricotta cheese into a food processor or blender and whizz until completely smooth. Add the remaining filling ingredients and blend until combined.

Pour the filling over the cooled base, then bake for 50 minutes until the cheesecake is cooked through but still has a bit of a wobble in the middle. Turn off the oven, leaving the cake inside to cool completely. Transfer to the fridge and chill for at least two hours to firm up.

To serve, remove the cheesecake from the tin, place on a serving dish and top with the raspberries. Drizzle with honey just before serving. This cheesecake is deliberately not overly sweet so, for those with a sweeter tooth, serve with a little extra honey on the side.