January is far too dark and cold a month to go on a restrictive diet, but I am trying to be a bit more mindful of what and how I eat – and how it makes me feel. Although I didn’t really overindulge over Christmas, my lifestyle changed quite a bit during 2017 and I don’t feel as bien dans ma peau as I did this time last year.
It’s not surprising that I can’t do my up my jeans because writing a cookery book takes no prisoners and I’ve tested a lot of recipes. I want to do something about it so that that means lots of walking (even in this grey weather, getting some daylight is a godsend for my mental wellbeing), the occasional trip to the gym and lots of veggies, pulses and grains. That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy a little indulgence once in a while (if you haven’t tried Greazy Vegan yet, you simply must) but I’m choosing my treats more wisely.
There’s more: I think I might have a food intolerance. As someone who loves food and writes about it, giving up the gluten seems somewhat sacrilegious, but let’s just say that it’s not really agreeing with me. I’m going to cut back on the bread and biscuits for a while to see if it makes a difference (we’ll see how long I last with that one) so I’ll keep you posted.
Anyway, gluten-free or not, eating well doesn’t have to be time-consuming, bland – or expensive – as you’ll see with my recipes for a simple seasonal salad and a fast and filling curry with cauliflower rice.
Jump for joy salad
Let me introduce you to January’s finest: sweet but mellow russet apples, ravishing Romanesco cauliflower, and my favourite, the humble sprout. One of the cheapest ways to get this winter’s veg is at your local market, although you can use any variety depending on what you can find. The sumac in adds a lovely hit of zesty heat but use ground cumin if you don’t have any. Using tinned lentils makes this a really quick and easy dish (I’m lazy, so sue me) but boil up some dried ones if you prefer.
For the salad
1 head of Romanesco cauliflower, broken into small florets (keep the leaves for cooking, so roughly chop these, too)
12 sprouts, ends and outer leaves removed and chopped finely
4 large handfuls of kale or spinach, roughly chopped
1 russet apple, cut into thin slices
1 x 400g can brown or green lentils, rinsed and drained
2 large handfuls of parsley, chopped
The juice of half a lemon
Salt and pepper
For the dressing
1 ½ tsp sumac
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
Put the cauliflower, sprouts and kale in a large bowl then mix the ingredients for the dressing on a glass or jar. Pour over the vegetables and massage with your hands, then season with salt and pepper.
Heat a large frying pan or wok over a high heat, then stir fry the vegetables for 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the lentils and cook for another minute. Remove the pan from the heat and tip everything back into the bowl. Add the apple and parsley and stir though, squeeze over the lemon, then serve.
Pea and aubergine curry with cauliflower rice
This quick curry is more fragrant than spicy and ready in about 20 minutes. You can find galangal in larger supermarkets but if you come away empty-handed, just leave it out. I’m not suggesting for one second that carbs are bad but if you fancy something a bit lighter – or you just fancy something different – cauliflower rice is rather nice, especially with the tiniest bit of almond extract. I’ve started cooking with rapeseed oil as it contains good cholesterol and omega fats but use any kind you have in the cupboard – although not extra virgin olive oil!
For the curry
1 medium aubergine, cut into small chunks
200g frozen peas
4 large handfuls of kale, roughly chopped into small pieces
1 tsp chopped or grated fresh ginger
1 tsp chopped or grated galangal, fresh or dried
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp salt
2 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
1 x 400g can tomatoes, chopped or plum
1 tbsp peanut butter
1 tbsp rapeseed oil
1 small lime, cut into wedges
For the cauliflower rice
1 large cauliflower
1 tsp coconut oil
1 tsp chopped or grated fresh ginger
A drop of almond essence (optional)
Heat the rapeseed in a large pan over a high heat. Add the chopped aubergine and pour over the salt, then fry for five minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Turn down the heat and add the shallots, ginger, galangal and cumin, then fry for another five minutes. Now, add the tomatoes plus a little water and bring to the boil. Tip in the peas and the kale and add the peanut butter. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pan with a lid and cook for 5-10 minutes.
Make the ‘rice’ by grating the cauliflower using a box grater – you can use a food processor but I find that a grater takes less washing up. Heat the oil in a pan over a medium heat, then add the cauliflower and the ginger and cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring frequently, until lightly browned. Add a drop of almond essence if using.
Serve with the curry and a squeeze of lime