My diet hasn’t exactly been restrained over the last few days / weeks (months) and so because I have a 1.2 kilo chocolate Easter egg to munch on, I decided to be relatively healthy last week. What I mean is that I decided to practically starve myself at breakfast and lunch, go to the gym, and then have a light dinner so that I could eat massive quantities of chocolate without feeling totally guilty.
I wouldn’t recommend this as a particularly sustainable or enjoyable diet (it is quite enjoyable actually), although you probably don’t need me to tell you that nugget of wisdom. Even delicious chocolate does start to feel a little bit of a chore to eat when you know you have mountains of it to get through (it is inconceivable for me to consider throwing the chocolate away, so don’t even suggest such a preposterous idea). So if you want to restore some balance into dietary life, here are a few recipes which are quick and easy to prepare, and generally low-fat and high flavour.
Saint Nigella of Lawson says that the perfect “my body is a temple” food is Asian style, which is true as long as you don’t include the all you can eat buffet at the local Chinese restaurant. Stirfry is a quick, cheap and simple way to get through a ton of veg without much fat or carbs.
A dribble of oil for frying plus all, some or none of: a teaspoon of lazy garlic, half a teaspoon of lazy ginger, a shake of dried chilli flakes or one chopped fresh chilli, a sliced onion, sliced peppers, a packet of beansprouts, thinly sliced carrot, raw tiger prawns (a pack for 2 people) / sliced chicken breasts (one per person) / thinly sliced beef / a steamed salmon fillet, mirin (rice wine vinegar), light soy sauce, oyster sauce, fish sauce, ready to wok noodles / brown rice
So what I do for a stirfry (each one impossible to replicate because I just chuck in whatever my hand finds in the cupboard first) is heat the oil in my wok (never to smoking point because I always worry that it is going to explode into flames) and chuck in the garlic, ginger, chilli, onion, carrot and peppers. I then add the meat (obviously chicken takes longer to cook than prawns), mirin and light soy sauce plus some fish sauce if I am cooking salmon or prawns. Then when the meat is cooked I add the beansprouts and noodles (I like the vermicelli rice noodles but the thick udon ones are very nice as well), and a splash of oyster sauce. The beansprouts and noodles make this a massive plate of food so you will leave the table satisfied, and there should even be enough for lunch the next day. A tip from Ken Hom – if you feel like you need more oil in the wok, and a splash of water instead and that should stop things sticking.
If I am steaming salmon, I put that on to steam first (in my lovely little bamboo steamer which makes the salmon taste amazing) and then make the stirfry while it is cooking – it takes roughly the same amount of time. If you are having brown rice instead of noodles, it takes FOREVER to cook, so get it on as soon as you can.
1 chicken breast per person, a tin of tomatoes and a tin of chickpeas, a spoon of lazy garlic, some dried chilli flakes or one chopped fresh chilli, one sliced onion, 1 chicken oxo, a shake of (all, some or none): turmeric powder, curry power, coriander powder, garam masala.
Put all of the ingredients in a saucepan together and top with some water (around half a tomato tin’s worth). Bring to the boil and simmer gently for 15 minutes. If you are being less healthy, add half a tin of coconut milk. Sprinkle with coriander and serve with brown rice (and naan if you are feeling cheeky). This would easily feed three people, or four if you had a few extra bits and bobs like samosas and dahl to turn it into a curry feast.
A friend with a cute name gave me this recipe, hence the name of the soup. You need 1 butternut squash, an onion, a few tomatoes (whatever you have hanging around, or you could use a tin but it’s nicer with fresh ones), a teaspoon of lazy garlic, 2 chicken oxo cubes, dried chilli flakes, a handful of red lentils (optional), approx. half a teaspoon each of: turmeric, cinnamon, garam masala.
Chop up the butternut squash carefully, as it seems the sole purpose in life of a butternut squash is to maim you when you exert your poor knife skills on it. Peeling it would probably kill me (literally) so I never bother. Put it in a large saucepan with a chopped onion and the other ingredients, then boil for around 25 minutes until the squash is tender. Blitz and serve, or allow to cool and keep it in the fridge for up to one week (the flavours get better over time). I find this makes approx 5 portions so you can have it for lunch every day for a week, as long as you don’t find that kind of thing completely boring.