Nutrition

Winter diet and my top winter recipe to boost your veg intake!

Seasonal shopping

We are in the middle of winter here in the UK, and it is getting really cold! It’s really time for warming, comforting soups and vitamin-packed juices. I am really interested in the idea of eating seasonally because it’s cheaper, easier and better for the environment, but I also truly believe that our environment provides us with what we need at different times of the year. In winter, it’s important to boost your immunity to protect yourself from infection (particularly important in this period of Covid pandemic) and it is also traditionally at time to rest and restore your energies after a busy year. Diet reflects this: focus on simple, veg-based recipes, lower your meat intake and give your digestive system a gentle break. Avoid consuming too much dairy, as it tends to increase mucus production. This could be a good time to try dairy free milk! My juicing machine usually gets plenty of use in the winter, and I like starting the day with a good veg- based juice. My favourite at the moment is beetroot, carrot and apple with a tiny piece of ginger.

First of all, citrus fruits are in season, and they are a good source of Vitamin C. Oranges, clementines, lemons, pomelos, blood oranges, there is plenty of choice! There is a good reason why those fruits emerge in the depth of winter: we need them to boost our immune system over the cold season.

In terms of veg, there is plenty of choice: carrots, beetroot, leeks, kale, celery, sprouts…are all in season.

My favourite winter soup (and I eat loads and loads of soup) is minestrone, which simply means ‘soup’ in Italian. It is wonderfully comforting and warming, as well as full of vitamins and minerals. You can make it pretty much with any leftover veg in your fridge, and it is very versatile. The more veg the better! I also pack mine with herbs, such as thyme, a bit of coriander and of course, basil.

Basic minestrone recipe for 2 people:

  • a medium sized potato
  • 2 small carrots
  • 1 courgette
  • 2-3 celery branches
  • a handful of cannelini beans or
  • a large handful of kale, chard or spinach
  • a small handful of angel hair pasta
  • tomato paste
  • olive oil
  • 1 L of veg stock (or plain water if you don’t have any!)
  • Herbs: thyme, rosemary, coriander, basic…
  • to serve: parmesan (optional)

First of all, soak your beans overnight if you are using dry ones.

Then cut all your vegetables in small squares. Gently fry the carrot and celery in olive oil.

Once it is starting to soften, add your stock, potato, courgette, beans, chard and herbs, add a tablespoon of tomato paste, cover and let simmer for at least an hour. The longer you leave it, the better as the broth will become more concentrated in flavour. Ideally, you would cook this soup, leave rest at night and heat up again the next day before eating.

Once your vegetables are cooked, add the pasta, mix well and leave another 5 minutes until it is cooked. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with a few basil leaves and some grated parmesan cheese for a more authentic Italian soup!

Nutrition

A trip to Morocco and a bowl of Harira soup

I recently went on a research trip to Morocco where I stayed for two months, and I am now back with loads of new recipes, ideas and inspiration. I went there expecting to buy a few popular products such as Argan oil, but I was completely blown away by the amount of natural products available, and regularly used by Moroccans. Walking around the souq, I found chebbah (Alun stone), a huge amount of different oils, from avocado to habba sawda (black seeds), a large number of herb and spice mixes used as medicine, my favourite ghassoul and henna… I experienced a whole different culture, with men and women taking regular trips to the hammam to  peel their skin with a loofa glove, called keess, and to purify themselves. Close to Meknes where I was staying, there are two thermal stations, called Sidi Hrazem and Moulay Yacoub, where water and mud and used to relax and cure various ailments. Over the next couple of weeks, I will discuss all those in more details and try out new recipes to use my findings.Unknown

For now, as we are in the midst of the holy month of Ramadan, I would like to share a soup recipe, Harira. Moroccans traditionally break their fast with a couple of dates, a bowl of harira seasoned with lemon juice, boiled eggs and sweets such as chebbakia or sellou. Harira is the perfect food to replenish the body after a long day, as it has a great balance of vitamins, proteins and nutritients. It is an ultimate comfort food: warm, feeling and full of flavour. It is also easy  to adapt to your taste, by using different vegetables or turning it into a vegetarian or gluten free version.

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Here is my recipe for Harira soup:

Ingredients:

– 1kg of fresh tomatoes, skinned (if I am being lazy, I use two tomato cans).

– 2 Onions

– A few branches of celery (can be replaced by cabbage, carrots, peppers, or pretty much any veg you have left in the fridge, in small quantity).

– A small bunch of parsley

– A small bunch coriander

– 100g of red meat, cut in small pieces (I use either beef or lamb; bones are good too as they give more depth of flavour).

– 200g of chick peas, canned/ 200g of brown lenses (I tend to use a bit of both)

– 200g of vermicelli pasta (you can use rice instead)

– Two tablespoons of flour (it is used to make the soup thicker, but you can do without for a gluten free soup)

– Spices to taste: salt and pepper, 1/2 tsp of curcuma and 1/2 tsp of paprika.

– A table spoon of cooking oil

My recipe is very simple: I put the tomatoes, the onions, the parsley and the coriander, all roughly cut, in a pressure cooker with the oil and spices. I add about 1L of water, cover and let cook for 30 mins. Once cooked, I mix everything with a hand mixer, then put back on the fire after adding the meat and the chickpeas/lenses. I cook for another hour or until the pulses are cooked. I then add the pasta and the flour, which I mix with a bit of water first. Tada! It’s ready to serve. Add water if you find the soup a bit thick, and serve with lemon.

This soup keeps really well in the freezer, so you can cook a big batch and use when neeed (for Ramadan for instance).