Relax. You're in the right place. Cleaning up your diet doesn't need to involve neon leotards or cauliflower smoothies. No one should be threatened with that. This column is more about pleasure than denial.
We could all improve our diets, but we don't have to sacrifice flavour. Each week, I'll take you through some simple steps to improve your shopping list and supercharge your supper.
The food we eat is inescapably linked to our concentration levels, our mood and, yes, our libido.
On average, we eat about five times a day. That makes more than 1,800 opportunities that we have each year to positively affect our body's battery.
This column is a great place to start. Sorry folks -- you won't find refined sugar or white flour on the menu. I'm through with those.
Instead, we'll explore wholesome flours, such as rye or spelt, and we'll also nosedive into natural sweeteners, such as maple syrup or molasses.
If you embrace one new recipe every week, that's 52 healthy changes you'll have mastered by January 2015. Let's get rocking!
Five Spice, apple and ginger lentil Soup served with garlic yoghurt
Red lentils add a really surprising creaminess to soups. And, unlike their green and brown cousins, the red ones rarely lead to trouser trumpets (that's Foxrock-ese for flatulence).
Green and brown lentils are firmer in structure, so they prefer to tango with salads rather than soups.
We love lentils because of their stash of PMT-busting magnesium and body-building iron.
They are significantly high in fibre while, at the same time, low in fat -- these chaps are a dieter's best friend.
Five-spice powder is a magnificent blend of star anise, cloves, cinnamon, fennel seeds and black pepper. It really helps to ramp up the flavour powers of this already tasty soup. There are several variations of five-spice powder, but it doesn't matter which one you lay your mitts on. Ready, steady?
For the lentil soup, you will need:
- 2 white onions
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin coconut oil
- 1 tablespoon Chinese five-spice powder
- Thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled
- 1 large apple, peeled and cored
- 1 cup red lentils, washed
- 1 tablespoon tomato puree
- 3 cups good stock or seasoned water
For the garlic yoghurt, you will need:
- 2 cloves garlic
- ½ large tub of natural yoghurt
- Chervil, chives, or other herbs, chopped
Peel and dice the white onions, then tumble them into a warm pan with two tablespoons of extra-virgin coconut oil to sweat them. Keep on a low heat. As the onions gently cook, they will turn translucent and sweet. After five or six minutes, add the Chinese five-spice powder. Next, dice the peeled ginger and the peeled and cored apple, and let them join the party. As soon as the onions look glassy, tip in the washed red lentils, the tomato puree and the stock or the seasoned water, whichever you're using.
Whack up the temperature on the hob to really get things pumping, then turn it down to a more gentle putter for around 15 minutes.
Make a start on the delicious garlic yoghurt by mincing the cloves of garlic on the finest part of your grater -- the part usually reserved for lemon zest.
Add the minced garlic to the natural yoghurt, and add the chopped chervil, and chives, or whatever herbs you may have loitering in the fridge. Allow the flavours to infuse while you wait for your lentils to yell. As soon as the lentil soup mixture is done, whizz it into a smooth soup using a hand blender. Pour it into big mugs, then bless it with the herby garlic yoghurt. Serve with woolly socks and good company.
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