MARC Mazoyer is getting ready for the week ahead. He’s made soup, and a loaf of bread, and roasted a chicken and he’s thinking about what he’ll do with the food over the next few days. Some of the chicken can go into a dahl, and maybe a risotto, and he might make some quesadillas with it too. And the leftovers can go into a caesar salad. This is how Marc keeps physically well. But it’s how he keeps mentally well too.

Marc, who lives in Glasgow, discovered the positive influence food and cooking could have on his mental health when he was a student. It was a stressful time. He was living on his own for the first time. The exams were looming. There was a lot of work to do and he was feeling anxious. And then he discovered the power of the kitchen. He chopped, and stirred, and tasted, and felt better. And a few years on, he still does. Feeling stressed? Head for the fridge and the hob.

Of course, in recent weeks Marc, who’s 35, has been spending even more time than usual at home in his kitchen because of the lockdown and it’s got him thinking more deeply about the effect that cooking can have on stress. Marc has worked as both a chef and a therapist – for a time he was the dessert chef at The Butterfly and Pig restaurant in Glasgow and he’s now an NHS therapist specialising in cognitive behavioural therapy – and both disciplines, cooking and therapy, have helped form his theories on the power of cooking on mental health.

“When you look at it from a mental health perspective,” he says, “there’s a lot about grounding people. So if you’re anxious, do something that grounds you. If people are depressed, what you’re looking to get into their lives is things that gives them a sense of fun, achievement and connection. And cooking does all of that.”

Some of the positive effects come from the act of preparing and getting close to food, says Marc. “Loads of people talk about mindfulness and it’s very much on trend,” he says. “But the thing about doing something that involves your senses, using your hands, or zoning in on smells, sights, sounds, that in itself is mindful.”

For Marc, a lot of his cooking comes from the mix of influences in his upbringing: his mum is Scottish and his dad is French and growing up in Bearsden, his mum would make him a lot of the Scottish classics that he still loves. But he also cooked with his granny on his dad’s side, who’s English but learned to cook in Algiers when she lived there with her French husband. Her speciality was sponge cake and it was in her kitchen that Marc really learned how to cook.

So, in stressful times, how can we apply Marc’s lessons to our own lives, and our own cooking? Well, you could start by trying some of the recipes Marc has given The Herald Magazine, but if you have no cooking skills at all or very few, Marc recommends starting with Delia Smith’s website,, where there are easy-to-follow, and free online courses. He also recommends avoiding the type of cooking that’s more likely to stress you out than calm you down – a complicated recipe you’ve never tried before for example.

“Make something that you grew up loving,” says Marc. “Make it for yourself, it’s tasting something that activates nice memories. Stuff you had as a kid can make you feel better. For me, it’s roast chicken and crumble. If you want to learn to enjoy cooking, you need to learn to cook to your own tastes and it’s important to think about what you want to eat.”

Marc also says it’s the act of cooking itself which can be good for your mental health rather than certain ingredients – in other words, don’t think in terms of so-called superfoods. “When you start to bring that element into it, it becomes a pressure in itself,” he says. “You think, I should be eating this, or that, and that can remove any sense of being creative or fun.”

And part of being creative is making mistakes, says Marc – he’s made loads of things he hasn’t liked, but the key is not to get stressed about it. His emphasis isn’t on learning to cook as such, it’s about learning to enjoy cooking.

“The nice thing is people will go to the gym or a yoga class to relax, all of that we can’t do because of the lockdown,” he says. “But if you have a kitchen and you change your attitude towards it, it’s a space where you can unwind and relax. It’s something you feel in control of and that’s probably what we’re all struggling with right now.”

Lentil Curry

Everyone is in the mood for comfort and most often I would turn to pasta or rice. Obviously these are harder to get at the moment so this simple lentil curry is a bowl-full of comfort that you can make if you have red lentil. Instead of playing about with loads of spices I only used curry powder to keep it simple, though I’ve suggested a spice mix you can make if you don’t have this.

I happened to make this curry the first time with frozen prawns which is delicious but really you can use any meat and I also sometimes throw in frozen vegetables about ten minutes before the end. It’s very adaptable and can be vegan if you use coconut milk instead of yoghurt. You can make rice to go with it if you prefer but I prefer to eat it like a thick soup with a spoon and a couple of poppadums.

Serves 3-4

Ingredients/potential substitutes

2 onions or 2 shallots/1 leek/4-5 spring onions

4 cloves of garlic or 1 heaped tbsp garlic granules/2 tsp pre-minced garlic

1 tbsp olive oil or 1 tbsp flavourless cooking oil/ coconut oil/ghee/ butter

2 tbsp mild curry powder or 1 tsp each: cumin powder, coriander powder, turmeric powder, chilli powder to taste

2 tomatoes, chopped or 10 cherry/ baby plum tomatoes, 2 tbsp tomato puree, 4 tbsp canned tomato/ passata

175g red lentils or 175g yellow split peas but these will need pre-soaking

500ml stock , chicken or veg stock is ideal

A handful of frozen prawns or frozen veg/other meat cut thinly

A small pot of natural yoghurt or 3 tbsp crème fraiche/cream/top of a can of coconut milk


1) Put the oil/other fat in the pan on the heat. Chop the onions as finely as you like and fry gently in a pan for about 8 minutes. Salt and pepper the onions.

2) Add the chopped garlic and stir in. Cook for another minute, once the smell of garlic hits you, it is cooked enough.

3) Next stir in the curry powder. It will probably begin to stick to the bottom of the pan but continue to stir and add the tomatoes and lentils and slick about in the pan.

4) Now pour in the hot stock, stir and put a lid on. Keep the heat as low as possible. It will be ready in 30-40 minutes but check it halfway (and then again ten minutes after) and if it is looking a bit dry add a little (only a little) more water. As you stir the lentils will start to form into a creamy sauce.

5) If you are adding frozen prawns/leftover roasted meat/finely sliced chicken or cauliflower/broccoli florets, do so for the last 10- 15 minutes of cooking.

6) Once it’s ready turn the heat off and stir in the yoghurt (if you do this once the heat is off the yoghurt won’t split). Serve it with rice or just dip some poppadums into it. Enjoy!

Note: this also freezes well and reheats well in the microwave.

Veggie Haggis Bean Burgers

When I first made these I had never attempted making a veggie burger before but when I eventually plucked up the courage to give them a try, I was so impressed I now make these regularly and always have a supply in my freezer. The good thing about these is that if you can get a vegetarian haggis from your supermarket the rest of the ingredients are store cupboard ones.

Ingredients/potential substitutes

1 large onion or 2 small ones, or 2 shallots/1 leek/4-5 spring onions

1 tbsp olive oil or 1 tbsp any flavourless cooking oil

1 or 2 garlic cloves or 1-2 tsp garlic granules/1-2 tsp pre-minced garlic

1 225g vegetarian haggis

1 heaped tsp Cajun spice. Or you can create your own spice mix from whatever you have of the following: paprika/smoked paprika, garlic powder, pepper, onion powder, dried oregano, cayenne pepper

½ teaspoon ground cumin

2 x 400g tins of kidney beans in chilli sauce. Or any tinned bean in chilli sauce or tinned beans in salted water with 2 tbsp sirracha/ bottled chilli sauce added

3 heaped tablespoons of breadcrumbs or dried or fresh breadcrumbs of any type


1) Take the haggis out of its casing and cut it into about 6 slices. Put the haggis into a microwaveable tub and microwaves for 2 minutes to soften it. Line a baking tray with cling film if you are planning on freezing some of the burgers.

2) Peel and chop onion(s) and put in a large saucepan with the oil and some salt and pepper. Turn on a low heat and stir occasionally until they are softened (about 10 minutes). Peel and finely chop the garlic. Add the chopped garlic and stir in. Cook for another minute, once the smell of garlic hits you, it is cooked enough.

3) Add the haggis and spices and stir into the onions until the haggis crumbles into the mixture and soaks up all the juices (about 2 minutes). Now tip in the cans of beans (no need to drain them) and the breadcrumbs and start stirring.

4) Keep stirring. Initially the mixture will be more like a thick soup but as the breadcrumbs soak up some of the moisture and the stirring breaks open some of the beans the mixture will gradually become very thick (this takes between 10 and 15 minutes). Once it’s nice and thick, leave it to cool until it can be handled.

5) Now roll out your burgers with your hands like play dough (I found an ice cream scoop really useful here for getting equal sizes) and put on the cling filmed tray. If you are eating some straight away preheat the oven to 200C and then put them onto a non-lined baking tray and give them about 20 minutes before checking (they will take at least 10 minutes longer if cooking from frozen). I got a batch of 13 mini burgers out of this quantity so you’d probably get six large ones if you prefer.

Note: If you are making these to freeze they are best frozen on the cling filmed tray in the freezer and once frozen you can put them into a freezer bag or Tupperware.


The first time I ate stovies I didn’t know that’s what they were called. My gran used to make it with mince, potatoes, beef stock and jars of Bolognese sauce. Then when I worked in a deli I learned to make stovies with black pudding and gammon. When I did a bit of research I found that no recipe for stovies is not met with criticism, probably because the way stovies are made varies by region and if your gran made them for you she will have had her specific family way of doing them.

Here is a stovies blueprint that serves two people generously (or one person who has an eye for good leftovers) and it can be doubled/ tripled etc depending on how many you are feeding. I made mine with beef sausages and black pudding because I had a breakfast pack in my fridge but the whole point of these types of recipes is you adapt this to what you have available at the time. I would suggest not getting too concerned about precise weights here, stews like this are very forgiving.

The reason this recipe may be useful just now is twofold. One, food you can make that takes you back to the taste of your childhood and makes you feel better is a good recipe right now. Two, this is so adaptable and a good way to use up leftover meat without having to hunt for rice or pasta. Feel free to completely ignore this recipe and use your own family one but hopefully it will serve as a memory jogger. Apologies in advance for any offence it causes.

Ingredients/potential substitutes

1 tbsp butter (or more traditionally dripping) or 1 tbsp any cooking oil

200g onion (about two small ones or one big one) or 200g shallots, 200g leeks, 4-5 spring onions

450g floury potatoes such as Maris Piper or Rooster

200g carrot and/or turnip (optional)

150g-250g beef sausages (skins off and halved) and 2 slices of black pudding (skins off and halved), or 150g-250g leftover roasted lamb or beef, corned beef, pork sausages

1 beef stock cube or lamb/beef stock pot, gravy from roast, 1 tbs bovril, a good shake of gravy granules

150ml water


1) I used a heavy based 20” pot with a lid. You want a heavy based pan to limit the chance of it burning, though I have it on good authority you do want some burnt sticky bits on the bottom of the pan.

2) Start by peeling and chopping your onion. Heat the fat on a medium heat in your pan and once it has heated add your onion. Season well with salt and pepper. Lower the heat and allow this to cook for around ten minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion has softened.

3) While the onion is frying, peel and slice the potatoes and carrots/ turnips if using. You do not need to be too pedantic about the size of the slices or cubes that you make. The bigger/thicker they are the longer they will take to cook through.

4) Now add the potatoes (and carrot/turnips) to the pan and stir about with the onions and add the water. Turn the heat as low as possible and if you have some baking/greaseproof paper tear a piece roughly the same size as the pan and lay it on top to cover the vegetables. This will help the veg cook quicker and retain moisture. Put a lid on and leave for 15-20 minutes.

5) Now check on the veg. They should be starting to soften but if not put the paper and pan lid back on and give another five minutes. Then add whatever meat you are using and gently stir into the veg. (I laid the black pudding pieces on top as these are likely to disintegrate otherwise). Now add the stock cube (just crumble in the cube)/gravy/Bovril paste/gravy granules. You only add more water to the pan if the mixture seems to be dry and starting to burn and add 2-3 tablespoons. Cover again with paper lid then pan lid.

6) Cook again on the lowest heat for 15 minutes then check. All the veg should be soft with some juices surrounding and there should be some burnt sticky pits at the base of the pan. Season again to taste before serving.

Note: this also freezes well and reheats well in the microwave.

You can follow Marc on Instagram at cooking_therapist_glasgow