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From buffet binge to healthy hotpot with Mexican twist

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Sophie White

Sophie White

Portion of fresh green Cilantro leaves

Portion of fresh green Cilantro leaves

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Sophie White

I went on holiday a week ago. It was exhausting. I foolishly consented to being accompanied by my family. I have learned belatedly that the best holidays are the ones you take by yourself. Unfortunately, post-baby, that isn't really an option, according to Himself.

On this trip, he even put in place a number of unpleasant rules to maximize quality family time. The first rule was instated in the car on the way down - no napping when others are not in a position to nap.

When we got to the hotel and saw the jacuzzi bathtub, the next rule was instated: no solitary bathing. Apparently all bathing would be done as a family unit. I mourned my fantasy of a bottle of prosecco in the bathtub, and suffered through "family bath time" trying in vain to read my book amid much splashing and general bath frolics.

One of the rules, I admit, I had no problem complying with was his "max out the buffet" mantra. Himself likes to feel he is getting good value, and when it comes to a buffet, his devotion to this philosophy is admirable and borders on a little disgusting at times.

He has no qualms about "multiple sweeps" for example, and sees it as completely acceptable to help himself to "travellers" - pocket-sized foodstuffs that can be secreted from the dining room for later consumption.

Of course he's not alone in his greed - I am right there with him. I just have more shame about it then he does. I've been known, when loading up my plate, to tell other guests that I'm just "grabbing an extra Danish for my husband" with a little rueful shake of the head.

It was a while before I realised that other people don't spend their holidays staggering from one meal to the next, fitting in a little stroll in between to aid digestion and work up some semblance of an appetite before commencing the next round of eating.

Other diners don't eat every scrap of bread in the basket, nor do they require frequent butter replenishments. I know we could just introduce a rule about moderation, but there's something about the short holiday window that compels me to eat on with a sense of grim determination.

It was a relief to come home and return to private bathing and healthy eating. Home-made Mexican food is much healthier than the fast-food alternatives.

Mexican-style beef hot pot

Serves 4.

You will need:

2 onions

4 carrots

2 peppers

2 cloves garlic

Olive oil

A big handful of fresh coriander

380g (13½oz) beef, sirloin or fillet

Salt

1 tablespoon ground cumin

2 tablespoons ground coriander

½ tablespoon hot chilli powder

1 tablespoon dried oregano

2 x 400g (14oz) tins tomatoes

2 tablespoons ketchup

230g (8oz) Greek yoghurt

30g-50g (1-1½oz) jalapenos

1 avocado, peeled and stoned

1 x 400g (14oz) tin red kidney beans

100g (3½oz) feta

Tortillas or pittas, to serve

Peel and finely dice the onions and the carrots. De-seed and finely chop the peppers. Peel and crush the cloves of garlic and set aside half the crushed garlic. Heat a splash of olive oil in a large saucepan over a high heat. Add the diced onions and carrots, the chopped peppers and half the crushed garlic and saute for about five minutes. Pick the coriander leaves from the bunch and set aside. Finely chop the stalks and add them to the pot.

Cut the beef into thin strips and add to the saucepan, along with a pinch of salt. Brown the meat, then add the ground cumin, the ground coriander, the hot chilli powder and the dried oregano. Mix together and cook for a further five minutes before adding the tinned tomatoes and the ketchup. Break the tomatoes up with a spatula. Once the pot is bubbling, lower the heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes.

Put the Greek yoghurt, the jalapenos and a pinch of salt in a blender and blitz until smooth. Taste and add more jalapenos if you want to turn up the fire. Spoon the mixture into a bowl, then put the avocado and the crushed garlic you set aside earlier into the blender and blend until smooth. Spoon the avocado mixture into another bowl. There's no need to clean the blender between uses as the residual yoghurt mix gives a nice creaminess and spice to the avocado mix.

Roughly chop the coriander leaves. Drain and rinse the tinned kidney beans and add to the saucepan. When the beef is ready, spoon it into bowls and top with the chopped fresh coriander, crumble the feta over each serving and top with the jalapeno yoghurt and avocado dip. Serve with warm tortillas or pittas.

Sunday Independent