Powerful ingredients to add a kick to your cooking
Tips and recipes to eat better, healthier and with more balance
Vitality porridge. Photograph: Emma Jervis Photography
We’re a month into the new year already. Did you start another year with a promise to yourself that you were going to eat better, healthier and with more balance? I am always so thankful to have another new year to start again.
Despite the multitude of chances, it seems looking after ourselves proves to be the most difficult thing of all. We’re so good at caring for others, but our main focus should, instead, be on ourselves. We soon see that when we change our habits for our own good it has a positive trickle-down effect on those around us.
We put our bodies under stress every day, so it’s important to feed them foods that are pure, relaxing, beneficial and energising.
It takes a few powerful ingredients to put a new habit in place. My recipe for success is: Use your willpower to get started, be present and focused. Make a plan on paper. Look on your new intention and yourself as a project. We often make new resolutions without completely considering the struggles and sacrifices that accompany them.
Therefore, it is important to check in with yourself first thing in the morning, during the day and last thing every night and identify the difficulties and forgive yourself any stumbles. Always remember that it takes 21 days to change a habit, so be kind to yourself along the way.
It’s not too late to make some changes to how you eat this year. Here are my buying, cooking and eating guidelines:
When shopping, be mindful of what you are buying and ask yourself, are you happy to put this in your body and will it serve your health? If not, don’t take it home.
Eat at regular times, avoiding late in the evening, and never let yourself get over-hungry.
Be fully present when you are cooking, notice your ingredients, wonder where they came from, who grew them, enjoy preparing and cooking them, and notice that every time you cook you learn something new.
Set the table, especially if you are eating on your own.
Eat without distractions in a calm environment and when you are not stressed (so lots of topics will be off-limits).
Eat what works for your body.
Eat until you feel comfortable.
Eat with enjoyment and thanks.
Porridge is a warming, nourishing breakfast that’s easy on the stomach and good for the heart. Use whatever milk you like here or just go with water. You could add a few slices of a very ripe banana for extra flavour and energy at the beginning of the cooking process. Eat slowly and stop when you start to feel full so you don’t overeat. This recipe is for one, as I have learned that porridge-eating is rather personal, but no problem doubling it if you do have someone willing to partake.
30g-40g rolled oats
1 piece of broken star anise
A big pinch of ground mixed spice
1 tbsp mixed nuts and seeds of your choice
Small amount of maple syrup or honey, to taste
Bring the oats, milk and star anise to the boil in a small saucepan.
Simmer until the oats are soft, about 5-6 minutes. Add a little more liquid if necessary.
Stir in the spices and seeds or nuts. Sweeten to taste, if you need it, and serve.
Prunes with orange and cardamom
I love prunes and eat them most days for breakfast when the soft fruit season is over. They haven’t had good press over the years as they were brought out from the back of the cupboard for emergencies. Prunes are dried plums and come with huge health benefits. They are especially good for weight loss as the soluble fibre in them helps you feel satisfied, which can prevent overeating. Replace the orange and cardamom with red wine and a little cinnamon for a real treat and serve with cream or ice-cream, a dessert I always have when I get to eat at Etto on Merrion Row. Do buy the best quality prunes you can find, and organic if possible as the flavour is far superior.
250g dried organic prunes
Zest and juice of 1 large organic orange
Seeds from 4 cardamom pods, crushed
Soak the prunes overnight or for 3 to 5 hours in just enough water to cover. They are ready for cooking when they are soft and plump.
Drain any remaining water from the prunes.
Next, zest and juice the oranges and chop the zest very fine and add to the prunes along with the cardamom seeds and bring gently to the boil. Turn the heat down to a gentle simmer and cook for 10 to 15 minutes or until the prunes start to fall apart when you squeeze them between your fingers.
Allow to cool before serving.
Eggs are a great source of protein and I find when I have a busy day ahead they keep hunger at bay for longer and prevent any temptations to snack. During the winter months having some spice does lift the spirits and is of huge health benefit. This recipe comes from the Cinnamon Club restaurant cookbook, which was given to me by a very dear friend who suggested I should put it on my menu as it is his favourite egg dish. When planning ahead you could double all the ingredients except the eggs, cook the onion and spice mixture and store it in the fridge until needed later in the week. An ideal dish for any meal of the day.
1 tsp olive/coconut oil
½ tablespoon cumin seeds
1 large onion, finely chopped
Small piece of fresh ginger (by eye)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon powdered turmeric
½ red chilli, finely chopped, or ¼ tsp chilli powder
1 tomato, diced (optional)
12 eggs, beaten well
A handful of fresh coriander, chopped
Toast the cumin seeds on a dry pan and set aside.
Heat oil over medium heat and add the onions and soften.
Now add the ginger and stir for a few minutes until you start to smell it.
Add the salt, turmeric and chilli and stir to prevent the spices burning. In less than a minute add the cumin and tomato (and its juice) and cook for 2 minutes.
Add the beaten eggs and cook over a low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the eggs are very softly scrambled.
Stir in the coriander and serve.
When I am hungry and want to eat well in a hurry, this is my favourite dish. You can change the spices to suit what you have in your kitchen, substitute coconut for the tomatoes and cook it in large quantities to keep in the fridge or to freeze. It’s great on its own, or with your favourite grain, or to accompany your favourite meat dish. Try it with a poached egg and/or avocado for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
1 tbsp coriander seeds, toasted and crushed
1 large pinch of fenugreek
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp fennel seeds
½ tsp chilli powder
3 cardamom pods
2 tbsp cider vinegar
3 tbsp oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 small stick of cinnamon
250ml chopped tinned tomatoes
½ bunch coriander leaves (optional)
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
Put the lentils in a pan and cover with water, and season with salt. Bring to the boil and cook until soft – about 8 minutes.
Meanwhile, crush or grind the coriander seeds, fenugreek, turmeric, cumin seeds, fennel seeds and chilli powder. Crush three cardamom pods, remove the seeds and add to the mix. Stir in two tablespoons of vinegar.
Heat a pan and add the oil. Then add the onion and season it with salt and cook for a few minutes to soften a little.
Add the spice mix, the cooked lentils, the tomatoes and the stick of cinnamon and give it all a good stir and bring to the boil. Turn down to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Finally, add the crushed garlic and mix it in well. Add more water for a liquid texture if needed.
Taste and add more salt if needed, scatter the coriander leaves on top and serve.