chilli

New Year, Same Me!

Brace yourselves for the new year mantra of detox, diets and exercise! 'New year, new you,' is all we hear, but really, is such a radical cleanse of the seasonal excesses totally necessary? After all, we are marooned in the middle of this grey, wet winter and surely some heartwarming comfort food and a little tipple wouldn't go amiss.

So here is my proposal, let's compromise and save the green juice cleanse, the multitude of orthodox salads and the fat-free diet meal plan for a later date and enjoy a little bit of what we fancy. I'm not refuting the wise words of our health gurus and I'm not suggesting by any stretch of the imagination, that we tuck indiscriminately into greasy fried food, but practise some semblance of moderation. 

We spent December looking forward to Christmas parties, luxurious foods and feasting. Rather than being a month of totally abstaining from life's enjoyable perks, January should have some sort of balance and why not embrace the healthy stuff? Let's make it simple, light and fresh. Courgette spaghetti or 'Courgetti,' as it is known by trendy food fashionistas, has revolutionised my life. You are hoodwinked into believing that you are devouring a bowlful of comforting pasta, but without all the starchy carb heaviness. The courgette spaghetti is prepared using a spiralizer, a julienne peeler, or even the humble kitchen knife. I kid you not, once you start making vegetable pasta, your imagination will start to run riot. I've teamed up my gluten free courgetti with an avocado pesto which adds a silky creaminess. It's fast, tasty, nutritious, satisfying, uber guilt-free and you can eat it by the bucket load. With the momentum of the New Year and all this feel-good food, I'm going to resolve to start my January fitness regime! Happy 2016!

Courgetti with Avocado Pesto

Serves 2

  • 250g Courgette

Pesto

  • 1 ripe Avocado
  • 1 clove Garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 Spring Onion, finely chopped
  • Juice of half small Lime
  • Half Green Chilli, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp plus extra for the topping, Parmesan Cheese, finely grated
  • 15g fresh Coriander
  • 1 tbsp Pine Nuts
  • 0.5 tsp Salt or to taste

Method

  • The courgette needs to be spiralized to make it into spaghetti. You can use a julienne peeler, or a knife if you don't have a spiralizer. Set aside once done.
  • Place one tablespoon of olive oil into a small frypan and heat up on a medium setting. Place the chopped garlic into the olive oil and fry for around 30 seconds. Do not allow it to brown and take it off the heat and set aside.
  • Peel and chop the avocado into a bowl and mix in the lime juice and add the salt. Using a fork, just mash the avocado until it is smooth.
  • Into a herb mill, or small food processor, add the chilli, coriander, pine nuts and spring onion and blitz.
  • Add this mixture from the herb mill into the avocado, along with the garlic and the Parmesan cheese and mix it all together.
  • In a large fry pan or wok, add a tablespoon of olive oil and on a medium to high setting heat up the oil. Add the courgetti and cook for 1-2 minutes and then add the pesto. Take the pan off the heat and the pesto will stay warm in the residual heat.
  • Serve the Courgetti immediately and sprinkle over some more Parmesan cheese on top.
  • Serve the Courgetti as a light meal, or as an accompaniment to any meat, chicken, fish or vegetable dish of your choice.

Tips

  • When using Parmesan cheese, always use Parmigiano-Reggiano.
  • I always make double the amount of avocado pesto and use half of it in the Courgetti and keep half in my fridge to serve with any main dish, or as a dip with crudités, or even as a spread in sandwiches or on toast.



Time to Detox?

The term 'detox' is being bandied around rather a lot these days. We are told that we need to detox physically, mentally and emotionally. This colloquialism refers to healthy eating, healthy living and healthy thinking. We are lured into a world of smoothies bursting with greens, spiralized vegetables hoodwinking us into thinking we are eating pasta, super finely grated vegetables impersonating rice; and salads loaded with micro leaves, sprouted beans, seeds and nuts. Does all this healthy eating cleanse our chocolate binging, our overt weekend wine quaffing or our post-drinking craving for greasy foods?

Admittedly, I've been quite cynical about all the detox hype, despite the fact I'm all for nutritious, healthy eating. Freshly pressed vegetable juices are a great boost to our immune systems and fresh leafy green cruciferous salads are full of antioxidants. The star of the show at the moment is kale, it's the trending superfood vegetable of the season. From Beyonce's kale t-shirt to Gwyneth Paltrow advocating kale chips, kale it seems is here to stay. It has made an appearance in every supermarket and curly kale is King. With its anti-cancerous properties and with enormous amount of iron and calcium, it's definitely the super model on the catwalk of vegetables and it's strutting its stuff!

So in honour of the mighty kale, I've decided to follow the herd and I've created my very own detox kale salad. 

Detox kale salad

Serves 4-6

  • 200g Kale, very finely shredded or grated with the stalks removed
  • 300g Red Cabbage, shredded or finely grated
  • 2 Carrots, shredded or finely grated
  • 2 Tomatoes, chopped into small dice
  • 1 Red Pepper, chopped into small dice
  • 2 Ripe Avocados, peeled and chopped
  • 110g Paneer, chopped into small cubes (Optional)
  • 1 400g Can Kala Channa (Dark Brown Chickpeas), drained and rinsed 
  • 1 Lemon
  • 1 Lime
  • 50g Coriander, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Green Chilli, finely chopped
  • 1 Handful of Pine Nuts

Method

  • Place the very finely chopped kale into a large bowl.
  • Add the red cabbage, carrots, tomatoes, red pepper, avocados, paneer, chickpeas, pine nuts and the coriander. 
  • Mix everything together and add the juice of the lemon and the lime.
  • Add the salt and the green chilli and mix well into the salad.
  • Allow the salad to rest in the fridge for at least thirty minutes, allowing the flavours to develop and the citrus to work its magic on the kale before serving.

Tips

  • You can toast the pine nuts in a dry frypan on a low to medium heat for a couple of minutes. Just keep an eye on them as they burn very quickly.
  • I sometimes chop up leftover homemade polenta into cubes and shallow fry until crispy. Sprinkle over the salad just before serving.
  • Cans of kala channa (dark brown chickpeas) are available from some supermarkets, however if you can't get these, just use a can of the regular chickpeas. The kala channa has a much nuttier flavour than regular chickpeas.
  • This salad is also the perfect accompaniment to my brunch dish, Indian Eggs with Tomatoes and Paneer.