Easy, healthy recipes to kick start the New Year

Jess Murphy: This week I’m taking inspiration from the Nordic wave that has engulfed Ireland

 

This is the weekend we find ourselves, still sitting in our new Christmas PJs, fishing for that last Celebration in the vast ocean of wrappers and thinking ‘Ihave to eat the entire contents of the fridge before Monday’. Because all diets start on Mondays, right?

While you’re heating up the last of the buttery mash and cauliflower cheese, waiting for Headspace, Guided Meditation and Mindfulness and the Couch to 5K apps to download (again), don’t forget about charging the Fitbit that Santa delivered. We know we’re going to nail it - 2019 is going to be our year. Bring it on. 

I’ve never been great with balanced eating, just part of being a chef surrounded by food, combined with unsociable hours, I guess. But I have always loved fresh flavours and seaweeds. One of my favourite restaurants in the world is vegan, I was even vegetarian for around eight years and do confess to being quite fond of those energy ball thingies. 

I’ve never had a 9 to 5 job (although I like that song) and believe me, I fully understand the struggle of day in, day out lunch making and trying to keep it interesting. So this week I’m taking inspiration from the Nordic wave that has engulfed Ireland, which has seen us all out foraging and trying different seaweeds. At this stage, if feels as if half the country has been to Instagram-friendly Copenhagen, the home of hygge. 

Yes, hygge, that Danish and Norwegian word for coziness and contentment. There is something extremely satisfying in taking care of yourself in simple ways, even just to take a half hour to turn your phone off and read a much loved book. 

Myself and Irish Times restaurant critic Catherine Cleary discovered this way of life together on the small island of Garten in Trondheim, Norway last year. There I made waffles – the non-Birds Eye potato kind – and we lit many scented candles with gusto. Our host, Heidi Berkin of Credo restaurant told us this was standard behaviour, and we decided then that was what we were going to do as soon as we got home. When we did arrive back, I immediately bought a load of candles and Catherine got a waffle maker. Perfect life balance - that’s the goal.

Danish Smørrebrød 

Boiling eggs is not rocket science, the trick to the perfect boiled egg is actually not to boil the eggs at all. First of all we need to know a few, very important eggy rules. If the egg is uber-fresh, less than four or five days old, allow an extra 30 seconds cooking time, and adding a teaspoon of bread soda to the water before cooking makes your eggs super easy to peel.

Don’t wander off and forget about them - over boiled eggs are rubbery. Never have the water at a fast boil, a gentle simmer is all you need. Try not to use eggs that have come straight from the fridge - cold eggs put straight into hot water are more likely to crack. If you eat boiled eggs often it’s handy to have an egg timer. Eggs with too much space to roll around in will bump into each another so use the right size saucepan. 

For a soft-boiled egg, here is a simple and reliable method to get one with a lovely liquid yolk - perfect for dipping your soldiers into.

Put your eggs in a saucepan small enough to ensure they’re not rolling around. Fill it with enough water to cover the eggs by around 1cm. Bring the water up to the boil, when large bubbles are breaking on the surface quickly take the pan off the heat and cover. Leaving them in the hot water for six minutes will produce a soft, runny yolk and a white that is just set but still with a nice wobble. Seven minutes will give you a firmer creamy yolk with a white that is set. Serve in an egg cup for breakfast with butter, sea salt and cracked black pepper.

Hard-boiled eggs are beautiful to look at and delicious quartered or sliced on a salad or halved and used as a garnish on our Smørrebrød.

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Cook as described above for seven minutes. As soon as they are cooked, drain off the hot water. The most important thing for hard hard boiled eggs is to cool them rapidly under cold running water to prevent dark rings forming between the yolk and the white. Let the cold tap run over them for a minute, then leave them in the water till they’re cool enough to handle. To peel, crack the shells all over on a hard surface. Then peel the shell off starting at the wide end and rinse again in case there are any bits of shell still hanging around. The yolk will be solid but still dark orange-yellow and dense in the middle.

Ingredients:

1 loaf proper rye bread 100g smoked salmon (we use Sally Barnes)  75g soft cheese or creme fraiche  50g celeriac, sliced very thinly  1 radicchio or other bitter salad leaf  2 soft boiled eggs 

Method 

Cut four thin slices from the rye loaf. Spread with the soft cheese and start building your funky, open sandwiches.  Curl the celeriac and salmon garnishing and decorate with the bitter leaves and soft boiled eggs. I like to present these on parchment. In all fairness, these are almost too pretty to eat.

Black Venus, carrot and orange pilaf 

Black rice is known in China as ‘forbidden rice’ or ‘Emperor’s rice’. It is an ancient grain that has more impressive health benefits than most other rice varieties. You can find it in your local health food shop. Rinse it really well as it leaves a black stain in your saucepans which it is pretty hard to get off. Not all carrots are orange like Aldi’s Kevin. Its well worth seeking out the heritage varieties to add interest to salads at this time of year. They come in purple, red, yellow, white and black - how carrots used to be before Dutch growers developed the uniform orange variety. Check farmers’ markets, larger supermarkets and good greengrocers.

Ingredients

For the salad 

250g Black venus rice 2 large carrots, shredded into various sizes 40g of golden raisins  35g of chopped lovage  50g of chopped curly parsley  Handful of seeds and nuts, toasted (black or white sesame or poppy seeds, chopped almonds or hazelnuts would all be good) A few green salad leaves for contrast.

For the dressing  1 tbsp maple syrup Zest and juice of an orange  1 tsp of Siracha sauce 1 small garlic clove  10g freshly grated ginger  Salt and pepper to taste 

Method  

Place your rice in a saucepan with 500ml of water. Bring to the boil, cover with lid and reduce heat. Simmer until tender or follow the instructions on the packet. While the rice is cooking, blitz together all the dressing ingredients in a blender. Alternatively whisk them or shake them to combine in a glass jar with a tightly fitted lid.  Combine all the salad ingredients in a large bowl and toss together with the dressing. Serve on a few of the salad leaves, sprinkling the toasted seed and nut mixture over the top. 

Spirulina Shake 

Spirulina grows in freshwater environments such as lakes, rivers, and ponds. It is full of protein and other good stuff such as iron, amino acids, and antioxidants like beta-carotene.

This is a nutritious and virtuous green smoothie with just a few ingredients - the perfect plant-based breakfast and snack.

Ingredients

1 large banana 1 medium sized apple  150ml good quality orange juice  200g spinach  1 tsp spirulina, heaped 

Method  Chop your banana and apple into bite sized chunks and put into a blender or Nutribullet.  Add the spinach, orange juice and spirulina and blitz to a very smooth consistency.  

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