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Back on track

After all the feasting over the last two weeks, and there’s been aplenty, I'm ready for a little moderation. Mindfulness, inside and out, etc. It doesn’t feel like I’m depriving myself of things. More like, "Hey salad! It’s been a while."

New Year's Eve and Day were the last maraschino cherries on the Christmas cake. NYE brought a huge dim sum lunch with friends, followed by a home made three course banquet in the evening, with lashings of champagne and cocktails. On the (long) way back from the party, DS and I also consumed a whole block of Parmesan cheese with a loaf of bread. I found the incriminating parmesan wrapper in my pocket the next morning, but we can't remember where it, or the bread, came from. I suspect the kitchen staff at the bar where DS was being his usual, exuberant Russian self. Or it could have been the friendly, singing Ukranians with whom we shared a warming cup of vodka half way home (in the interests of international relations). NYD called for a medicinal full English with Bloody Mary's, then ice cream, brownies and take away curry. Extreme gourmandising.

On the 2nd I felt like I wouldn't need to eat for a week. Sure, we polished off the left over brownie for breakfast that we hadn't managed the previous day. But only to rid the kitchen of temptation.

Since then it's been a CINCH. Two colourful salads, a few Indian inspired vegetarian dishes and a restorative chowder prepared by my handy cousin. As well as a couple of squares of dark chocolate. For the vitamins.

So. Here are a few sublimely virtuous January detox ideas. Hopefully the rest of the month will be this EASY.


Pumpkin, kale, freekeh and egg salad

Serves two, takes 30 minutes

salad / main / autumn / winter / nothing fancy / easy peasy / vegetarian / dairy free / hands free / detox

My mother just happened to have some freekeh in her store cupboard. Sure. Apparently it's an ancient grain and is super good for you, so the friendly-looking packet tells me. It's also TASTY. You could substitute for any other healthy grain - bulgur and spelt would both be lovely. You want something with a bit of bite.

I use one, large, saucepan for the grain, kale and eggs to save on washing up. Stop watch at the ready!

* Pumpkin - 1/2 a small one, deseeded and sliced into crescents (you can use any kind of squash, in whatever shape you like)

* Freekeh - 1/3 cup

* Vegetable stock cube - 1/2

* Kale - a few leaves

* Egg - 2

* Orange - zest of half

* Olive oil - a glug

* Dill - a handful, chopped (or whatever fresh herbs you have)

Preheat the oven to 220 degrees C.

Lay the prepared pumpkin on a baking tray lined with baking paper, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, or until tender and starting to colour.

Meanwhile, put the freekeh and the eggs into a large saucepan with the stock cube and about 750ml water. Bring to a simmer, checking what time it is when the water starts to bubble. After 7 minutes, scoop out the eggs with a slotted spoon and immediately run them under some cold water.

Prepare the kale by cutting the leaves from the thicker stalks. Roughly chop the leaves and save the stalks for use in a stock or soup later in the week. When the freekeh has been cooking for about 13 minutes, add the kale leaves to the pan and simmer for a further 2 minutes. Strain the whole lot using a fine sieve and return to the pan, away from the heat.

Add the dill, orange zest and a glug of olive oil to the pan with a sprinkling of sea salt and black pepper. Stir well, then divide the kale and freekeh between two bowls. Lay the pumpkin slices over the top.

Peel the eggs (they should peel easily after being run under cold water). Carefully cut each one in half and place on top of the salad. Season again with salt and pepper.

Bean, pumpkin and cavolo nero salad

Serves 2, takes 30 minutes

salad / winter / nothing fancy / easy peasy / vegetarian / gluten free / dairy free / hands free / detox

* Pumpkin - 1/2 a small one, deseeded and sliced into crescents (you can use any kind of squash, in whatever shape you like)

* Olive oil - a glug

* Cavolo nero - a few large leaves

* Beans - 1 tin mixed

* Lemon - juice of 1/4

* Walnut oil - a glug (or olive oil)

* Dill - a handful, chopped

Preheat the oven to 220 degrees C.

Lay the prepared pumpkin on a baking tray lined with baking paper, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, or until tender and starting to colour.

Bring a medium pan of water to the boil with a generous pinch of salt. Roughly chop the cavolo nero, place in the pan and simmer for 3 minutes. Strain, then return to the pan away from the heat.

Rinse the beans with cold water in a sieve. Add them to the pan with the remaining ingredients and mix well. Divide between two bowls to serve.

Ginger spiced daal with cauliflower turmeric pilaf

Makes about six portions, takes 40 minutes prep plus an hour cooking

winter / autumn / main / side / vegetarian / vegan / nothing fancy / easy peasy / gluten free / dairy free / detox / hands free / party / on a budget

This is my gingery, spicy version of an Indian daal, excellent for a cold winter's night. The cauliflower pilaf is a light and nutritious alternative to rice: turmeric is thought to possess all sorts of magical detoxifying and healing properties. Oh so virtuous.

* Onion - 1 white, peeled and diced

* Vegetable or coconut oil - 1 tbsp

* Ginger - 2 thumb sized pieces, peeled and diced

* Turmeric - 1 tbsp

* Ground coriander - 1 tbsp

* Chili - 1 red, deseeded and finely sliced

* Salt - 2 tsp

* Black pepper - a good crack

* Coriander - a bunch

* Garlic - 2 cloves, peeled and finely sliced

* Lentils - 1 1/2 cups

For the pilaf

* Onion - 1, peeled and diced

* Turmeric - 1 tsp

* Vegetable or cocoa oil - 1 tbsp

* Cauliflower - 1 medium

* Salt - 1 tsp

* Coriander - a handful of leaves, chopped

Start by making the daal. In a large saucepan, fry the onion in the oil for a few minutes over a medium heat. Add the spices, as well as the stalks of the fresh coriander, roughly chopped. Fry for about ten minutes, stirring often, then add the garlic and stir for a couple more.

Add the lentils to the pan and stir well to coat them evenly in the spices. Add 4 cups of freshly boiled water, stir and bring to the boil.

Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer, cover the pan and leave to cook for an hour. Chop up the remaining coriander leaves ready to add when you serve.

Next prepare the pilaf. In a large saucepan, fry the onion and turmeric in the oil over a medium heat.

Remove and discard the leaves of the cauliflower and roughly chop the florets and stalk. Grate using the grating blade on a blender. You can do this by hand but it takes patience!

Mix the grated cauliflower into the pan with the onion along with the salt and 2 tbsp of water, so that the spice is evenly distributed.

When you're ready to eat, put the cauliflower pan, covered, over a high heat. Steam for 5-8 minutes, depending on how crunchy you like it.

Serve the daal scooped over the pilaf with plenty of freshly chopped coriander.


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