Aside from the likely meat overdose associated with the festivities, January is always the perfect time to re-evaluate our diet. While many of us will make new year promises to follow the tough-to-travel path of deprivation, cutting out favourite foods is hardly an exciting way to start 2015.
We all know about eating things in moderation, but sometimes our diet and body will benefit more by what we add rather than what we cut out. In other words, rather than making plans to embark on a strict diet you'll struggle to follow, why not look at ways to improve on what you already eat?
Eating more fruit and vegetables daily is a basic first-step that guarantees immediate health benefits. Another simple-to-follow rule is deciding to eat fish at least once a week. Many readers will already do this, but for those of us who struggle to fit fish on to the weekly menu, January is a great time to start. With most of us fed up of turkey and ham, fish can suddenly become an interesting alternative.
If you're embarking on a mission to coerce reluctant kids (or even fussy adults) into eating fish, do them a favour and choose fresh fish.
It cooks far quicker than frozen, bread-crumbed fish that's been heavily processed, and only needs a quick squirt of lemon juice and seasoning to produce something delicious and nutritious.
Let's make 2015 the year we bring back Fish Friday. Start by getting to know your fishmonger and mealtimes need never be dull again.
Recipes courtesy of Bord Bia
700g hake, skinned, boned and cut into chunks
A knob of butter
1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
300g carnaroli or arborio risotto rice
100ml white wine
800ml stock, heated to simmering point
A little salt and black pepper
200g of vegetables – a mixture of frozen peas and broad beans works well
Handful basil leaves, lightly torn
1. Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4, 180C (150F). Melt a knob of butter with a dash of olive oil in a wide, shallow ovenproof saucepan over a gentle heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, but not browned. This will take about 5 minutes.
2. Add in the rice and stir for 1-2 minutes until it starts to look translucent. Add the wine and stir until it evaporates.
3. Pour in enough of the heated stock to just cover the rice and simmer gently, stirring now and again. Season with a little salt and pepper. As the stock evaporates, add more and stir intermittently until all the stock is used. This will take about 15 minutes. Taste regularly and add a little more salt if necessary.
4. Stir in the frozen vegetables and basil leaves. Then season the fish and place it in a single layer on top of the risotto. Cover and place in the pre-heated oven for 10-12 minutes until the fish flakes easily with a fork.
5. Remove from the oven and serve immediately with a side salad and grated hard cheese to hand around.
4 haddock fillets about 175g each, skin on and boned
2 tbsp harissa paste
1 tbsp olive oil
For the couscous
Juice and grated rind of 2 lemons
A little salt and freshly ground black pepper
400g boiling water
100g baby spinach, roughly torn
For the dressing
250g Greek-style natural yoghurt
1 clove garlic, chopped
3 tbsp mint, chopped
1/2 tbsp wine vinegar
For the salad
200g tomatoes, roughly chopped
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
Juice of half a lemon
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt and black pepper
Bunch of chives, thinly sliced
1. Place the couscous, lemon rind and juice, salt and pepper in a bowl and mix to combine. Pour in the water, stir and cover with cling film. Set aside until all the water has been absorbed and then stir in the spinach.
2. Make the yoghurt and garlic dressing by simply stirring together all the ingredients. Season to taste. Set aside while you cook the fish.
3. Spread the harissa paste over the flesh side of the fish. Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Then add the fish, skin-side down, and cook for 4-5 minutes or until the skin is crispy.
4. Turn and cook for another 2-3 minutes until the fish flakes easily with a fork. Serve with the couscous and the yoghurt and garlic dressing and salad.
Martin O'Donnell, The Twelve Hotel
"WHEN our veg patches are looking bare we can look to other sources for delicious seasonal fare. Where better to go than our fantastic shorelines with all sorts of goodies in abundance, perfect for creating warm winter dishes?
January provides us with a great excuse to get out in the wild after the festive period. If you're lucky enough to live near the coast, seize the opportunity to put on the wellies, hats and scarfs and see what lies on our doorsteps.
Gather cockles, mussels and winkles for a scrumptious and light stew. Simply steamed in their shells with some white wine, they'll make a delicious and impressive dish.
Martin O'Donnell is head chef at The Twelve, a gourmet hotel with an award-winning restaurant and gastro-bar. The Twelve, Barna, Co Galway. www.thetwelvehotel.ie