How the Happy Pear twins helped their dad slim down and shed the pounds
Cooking a Father's Day feast tomorrow? Here, the Happy Pear cooks Stephen and David Flynn share the nutritious recipes that helped their own dad slim down and get healthy
Our dad, Donal, is an engineer, but growing up we always thought of him as a businessman. He always worked long days, never eating breakfast, fuelled by coffee, sandwiches and snacks, and finished the day with a big dinner, usually after 8pm, just before bed. Over the years he became nice and round, with plenty to hold on to!
Health was never on his agenda, he just ate whatever was going, didn't really question what he ate, and tended to defer responsibility for his health to the doctor.
When we were growing up, Mom cooked for us every night and made sure we ate meals together. When it came to Sundays she was worn out feeding four hungry boys all week, so she passed the baton to Dad. He had grown up with a big Sunday dinner being the highlight of the week, when all the family gathered together, and it became our family tradition too.
Our Sunday dinners were long social affairs, with Granny being centre of attention. There was an open-door policy. There were usually a few friends, maybe some 'out of town' people one of us had brought along, or a new girlfriend - everyone was welcome.
There could be as many as 15 around the table. As enjoyable as it was, Dad often struggled with sleep on Sundays, as he would get 'meat sweats'.
When we started the Happy Pear in 2004, we had been 'plant powered' for a few years and had been chipping away at Mom and Dad about their eating habits. Dad is very rational and follows reason rather than feelings. We gave him The China Study (one of the best-selling nutrition titles ever in the USA, which advocates a plant-based diet). As an engineer he loved it - all that data and research. It just made sense to him.
He started changing to a more plant-based diet. Mom, by default, followed and they both became more open to embracing healthier ways. In 2008, we bought them a trip to a health centre in the States and this sealed the deal. They came back very much on the same page as us, all about the veg.
After changing their eating habits, Dad wondered what would happen to Sunday dinner? Would it actually survive without the big roast centrepiece?
He continued to take charge of it, but now, instead of roast lamb or beef, it became all about fancy veg bakes, lots of oven-roasted root veg with plenty of red onion, garlic and thyme, big hefty salads, roast stuffed aubergines, grilled veg straight off the barbecue.
Dad really upped his game and found a passion that had been lying dormant for some time. As Dad says himself, Sunday dinner is actually better now. Now he really relishes the taste of his food. "There are so many tastes and foods that I just wasn't aware of a few years back."
The variety of food has increased massively, and Sunday dinner is more of a feast than ever.
In terms of Dad's health today, he says the huge lesson for him is waking up to the fact that his health is his responsibility. Giving up nearly all meat and dairy and eating lots of veg has led to a whole change in lifestyle. He has lost weight. He now takes wheatgrass juice every morning and walks for an hour at 6am rather than jumping into a car and driving to an office.
His complaints about aches and pains in his joints have all stopped, because these have either improved or disappeared. His digestion is also much better, and there are no more meat sweats.
Extracted from 'The World of The Happy Pear', by Stephen and David Flynn, with photography by Alastair Richardson. Published by Penguin at €24, the book is in shops now
GRILLED HALLOUMI BURGER WITH CHILLI KETCHUP AND TAHINI MAYO
This is a fab barbecue recipe and goes down a treat with both veggies and non-veggies - always a winner! It's one of the most popular dishes on our evening menu.
1 red pepper
5 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 x 200g pack of halloumi cheese
4 burger buns or wholemeal pittas
homemade ketchup (see below)
50g rocket or similar greens
Start by preparing your veg. Cut the courgette in half and then into thin strips lengthwise. Slice the aubergines lengthwise into thin strips. Chop the pepper vertically into four large sections, discarding the core with the seeds. Chop the halloumi into 4 thin rectangular slices. Put the cut veg into a large bowl with 4 tablespoons of the oil and the salt. Mix well until they all have a nice even coating.
Start to grill the prepared veg on a hot barbecue, turning regularly - you want them nicely charred but also soft and tender. Remove your cooked veg from the grill and set aside while you cook the halloumi - it will cook very quickly! Put it on the barbecue until it has nice grill marks on each side, about 5 minutes.
Toast the buns on the barbecue, then layer them up with some homemade ketchup on the bottom bun, Happy Pear mayo on the top bun, grilled courgettes, aubergine, halloumi, roasted peppers and some rocket in between. Alternatively you can spread the inside of your toasted pitta pocket with ketchup and mayo on either side and fill with your halloumi, veg and greens. Take the first bite… epic, and oh so tasty.
HAPPY PEAR KETCHUP
Once you've tried this you'll never want to use shop-bought ketchup again.
Makes about 400ml
200g tube of good quality tomato purée
90g maple syrup/agave syrup
6 tablespoons white wine vinegar/apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 red chilli (optional)
Mix all the ingredients in a bowl until smooth and well blended. If you want to spice it up, add the red chilli, chopped, seeds and all. Enjoy as a dip or in your burger.
COCONUT CHANA MASALA WITH SPINACH
Quick, super-tasty and oh so lovely. Traditionally an Indian chana masala doesn't have coconut milk or spinach, but the addition of the coconut gives a creamy texture and the spinach just bumps up the nutritional power. Serve this with brown rice or your grain of choice to bulk it out and soak up the lovely creamy sauce.
1 medium onion
2 cloves of garlic
½ a thumb-size piece of fresh ginger
1 small red chilli
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon garam masala
¼ teaspoon freshly ground
1 x 400g tin of chickpeas
2 tablespoons oil
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 x 400g tin of coconut milk
100g baby spinach
juice of ½ a lime
Peel and finely chop the onion, garlic and ginger. Deseed and finely chop the chilli (leave the seeds in if you like it hot). Cut the tomatoes into small bite-size pieces.
In a small bowl, mix all the spices together. Drain the chickpeas and rinse well. Get a large pot and fry the onion, garlic, ginger and chilli in 1 tablespoon of the oil on a high heat for 5 minutes, stirring regularly until the onions are starting to brown and the garlic is turning golden.
Turn the heat down to medium, add the spice mix and salt, and cook for 2 minutes with the remaining tablespoon of oil. There should be a lovely strong aroma in the kitchen.
Next, add the chopped tomatoes and cook for 2 minutes, stirring regularly. Add the coconut milk and chickpeas, bring to the boil and leave to simmer for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat, stir in the spinach and lime juice, and serve.
HAPPY PEAR EGG-FREE PAVLOVA
At last - an egg-free meringue. We know this sounds like a total contradiction, and when you see what we are using instead of eggs, you will be amazed. This is very straightforward and involves the same steps as a normal pavlova - first you make the meringues and then the cream. The meringues will keep for five days in an airtight container.
liquid from 1 x 400g tin of chickpeas
125g caster sugar
To layer and top your pavlova:
4 x 400ml tins of full-fat coconut milk (refrigerated overnight)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
300g soft fruit of your choice
a few mint leaves
Preheat the oven to 110°C/225°F/gas mark ¼. In a clean bowl, whisk the chickpea liquid for 10 minutes, using an electric hand whisk. It will become thick, stiff and creamy, with soft peaks.
Sprinkle in the caster sugar gradually and keep whisking, adding the sugar into the mixture for a further 5 minutes.
Get out two baking trays. Using the base of a 23cm spring-form tin, draw a circle on a sheet of baking parchment. Draw a second circle beside it. You should be able to draw two circles on each baking tray. Altogether you'll draw four circles.
Spoon the meringue mix to fill your marked circles, then put the two baking trays into the preheated oven for 2 ½ hours.
When they are ready, take them out, leave to cool for 40 minutes, and carefully peel off the baking parchment.
Skim the cream from the top of each tin of coconut milk. Put into a bowl and add the vanilla extract and 2 tablespoons of the clear coconut milk from the cans. Whisk with an electric whisk for 1 minute to bring it all together and remove any lumps.
Place your base layer of meringue on a flat plate and spread with a layer of coconut cream. Top with fruit of your choice (such as fresh raspberries/strawberries/passion fruit/kiwi/mango). Repeat until you are left with a last layer of meringue to put on top, then finish with some coconut cream, and decorate with fruit and mint leaves. Enjoy!