Healthy food is boring? These recipes will change your mind

My kind of balanced eating: a flavour-filled feast with good-for-you ingredients

Niçoise tuna with tender boiled eggs

Niçoise tuna with tender boiled eggs

 

Sport and fitness were not high on my agenda when I was growing up. I was famous in my school for scoring the only own-goal in the school’s sporting history. I knew, as I sat in the school bus on the way home, filled with shame, that sport would not be my forte.

Thankfully, my interest in food kept me occupied during my formative years, but now that I am slightly older and working in a job that requires plenty of eating, finding an activity that keeps me active and I actually enjoy has been important.

Recently, when I moved to Los Angeles, with a lack of cliffs and green landscapes to hike with the dog, I was all set to finally find an activity I could call my own. A crossfit gym in the neighbourhood was offering free trial classes, so I signed up. A week of not being able to walk after dropping a kettle bell on my foot, combined with muscles that were in protest after what they had been subjected to, meant that crossfit was certainly not for me.

After a couple more false starts, with a soul cycle class – pedalling to music while going nowhere fast on a stationary bike – that nearly caused me to collapse, and a cardio barre class that had me exercising with a ballet bar, I stumbled across hot yoga. 

I had been to regular yoga classes before and had fallen in and out of them over the years, but this time I became completely obsessed. I go almost every day. For the first time, I’m excited about exercise, and with all this extra energy being expended, having a balanced diet has never been more important to me.

The recipes this week are aimed at more-balanced eating. Fresh vegetables, good grains and protein are all high on the menu.

A niçoise salad with the spoils of summer, a spiced fish dish full of vibrant colour and flavours and – for those looking for a sweet treat minus the processed sugar – mango, chia seed and yoghurt ice pops to keep you cool.

This is my kind of balanced eating: a feast of flavour filled with ingredients that are good for you.

NIÇOISE TUNA WITH TENDER BOILED EGGS

A niçoise salad might feel somewhat passé, but it’s time for a comeback. This is instant summer food: fresh summer vegetables arranged on a platter with the best-quality tuna – or fish of your choice – pepped up with salty capers, olives and peppery French mustard dressing. Add or subtract ingredients as you wish: this is an ideal salad for interpretation.

Serves 4
200g small, waxy purple and red potatoes
3 large free-range eggs
250g green beans, topped and tailed
2 baby gem lettuce heads, washed and leaves separated
A good handful of watercress, washed
300g of line-caught tuna in olive oil
200g olives, pitted
8 radishes, halved
100g cherry tomatoes, halved
3tbs capers

For the French mustard dressing:
3tbs extra virgin olive oil
1tbs white wine vinegar
1 heaped tsp Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, finely grated
Sea salt and ground black pepper

Method
Prepare the dressing by whisking together all the ingredients and seasoning generously with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Place the potatoes in a medium pot and fill it with cold water. Add one to two tablespoons of salt, cover with a lid and place over a high heat until the water boils. Lower the heat to a steady simmer and cook for 12-13 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork. Using a slotted spoon, drain the potatoes from the water and place on a plate to cool completely.

While the potatoes are cooking, lower the eggs into the water and cook for six minutes. Remove the eggs with a slotted spoon and plunge them in a bowl of ice water. Once they have cooled completely, carefully peel the eggs and slice in half.

Bring the pot of water back to the boil and add the green beans. Cook for three minutes before refreshing in a bowl of ice water and, once cooled, draining completely.

Arrange the baby gem and watercress leaves across a large serving platter, and top with the green beans, olives, tomatoes, eggs, radishes and potatoes. Break the tuna into large pieces and arrange in the centre of the platter. Scatter the capers over the top and drizzle generously with the prepared dressing.

SPICED FISH WITH MANGO SALSA AND BROWN RICE SALAD

Spiced fish with mango salsa and brown rice salad

I regularly make this spicy, charred fish as the filling for fish tacos. Combined with a cooling sweet mango salsa and a fresh-tasting brown-rice salad, it becomes a hearty, filling dinner. Most of the elements can be prepared in advance, but only cook the fish when you are ready to serve.

Serves 4
650g skinless cod or hake fillet
1tbs sunflower oil


For the spice mixture:
1tbs smoked paprika
1tsp garlic powder
1tsp dried oregano
1tsp cayenne pepper
1tsp ground cumin

For the wild rice salad:
200g cooked brown basmati rice
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
3tbs extra-virgin olive oil
1tbs balsamic vinegar
1 x 400g tin chickpeas, drained, rinsed and roughly chopped
6 raw or blanched asparagus spears, finely sliced
Large handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
50g rocket leaves, roughly chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the mango salsa:
Half a cucumber
2 mangoes, peeled, stoned and chopped
4 spring onions, trimmed and chopped
1 small red chilli, deseeded and chopped
Juice of 1 lime
2tbs olive oil
Large handful of coriander leaves, chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Wild rice salad method
Cook the rice for the salad according to the packet instructions (or use leftover rice). Allow to cool. Meanwhile, whisk together the garlic, olive oil and balsamic vinegar in a large bowl. Add the cooled rice, chickpeas, asparagus, parsley and rocket and mix until everything is evenly combined. Season with salt and pepper.

Mango salsa method
Cut the cucumber in half lengthways and use a teaspoon to scoop out and discard the seeds. Cut the cucumber into dice and add to a bowl with the remaining salsa ingredients (except the coriander). Season with salt and pepper and stir well to combine, adding the coriander just before serving.

To cook
First, combine all the ingredients for the spice mixture in a bowl and then use the spice mix to coat the fish fillet completely.

Heat a barbecue or griddle pan to a medium-high heat. When it is hot, brush the grill or griddle with the oil and cook the fish for four to five minutes on each side, until cooked through (the flesh should be just opaque). Use a couple of forks to break the fish into large chunks. Serve immediately with the brown rice salad and mango salsa.

QUICK MANGO, CHIA SEED AND LIME POPSICLES

The satisfaction to be had in blitzing up summer fruits and freezing in ice-pop moulds is certainly not lost on me. If you would prefer a lighter pop, remove the yogurt and double the quantity of mango.

Makes 6 popsicles
2 large ripe mangos, peeled and roughly chopped
1 lime juice and zest
200g vanilla Greek yogurt
2tbs chia seeds

Method
Blitz the mango, lime juice and lime zest a smooth puree in a food processor. Transfer to a bowl and mix through the chia seeds.

Spoon two tablespoons for the mango puree into each of a set of six popsicle moulds, followed by two tablespoons of yogurt and a final two tablespoons of mango puree. Add a wooden stick to each mould and transfer to the freezer to set overnight.

Remove from the freezer and carefully run the moulds under warm water to loosen the pops.

Serve immediately.

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