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Book review: The Cycling Chef by Alan Murchison

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Book review: The Cycling Chef by Alan Murchison

During the 1904 Tour de France, winner Henri Cornet reputedly drank 11 litres of hot chocolate and four litres of tea and Champagne every day, as well as forcing down 1.5kg of rice pudding.

It’s fair to say that cycling nutrition has come a long way since then. The pressure to stay ‘lean’ can lead to borderline obsessive behaviour when it comes to what even amateur cyclists put in their bodies. And although this can be effective, for anyone with even a vague appreciation of good food it can also be extremely boring. Thankfully, Alan Murchison’s latest book, The Cycling Chef: Recipes for Performance and Pleasure, is set to change that.

Murchison has managed to find enough time not only to develop a successful culinary career, holding a Michelin star for more than a decade while executive chef of L’Ortolan in Reading in Berkshire, but also to win multiple elite cycling and running competitions. More recently, he has combined these twin passions and restyled himself as an expert on sports nutrition, cooking for British Cycling’s elite athletes.

And so The Cycling Chef bristles with nutritionally balanced meals that also happen to be delicious. There is a strong emphasis on quality and variety of ingredients along with some interesting ideas on boosting performance through food, including cutting down on gluten to avoid the sort of digestive distress some cyclists can experience when training and racing hard.

While many of the recipes rely on having a well-stocked store cupboard, most are also fairly economical to produce and easy to make. Some – such as sesame and soy tuna niçoise, or venison sausages with roasted beetroot and red onion – fall under a category entitled “high-performance diet on a budget”.

All in all, this is an excellent book that treads the tricky line between healthy, performance-orientated eating and deliciousness. Given that cycling seems to be a particularly popular sport among hospitality professionals, it ought to go down well among Murchison’s colleagues, and it’s a very welcome addition to the world of sports nutrition recipe books.

The Cycling Chef by Alan Murchison (Bloomsbury Sport, £22)

• Try the recipe for barbecue spiced chicken with quinoa, mango and pomegranate salsa from the book here

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