I ate like Roz Purcell for a week - here's how it went
Out of all of the celebrity diets to choose to follow, Roz Purcell's is undoubtedly one of the better options.
The former Miss Universe Ireland's Instagram feed is jam-packed with colourful, hearty dishes that look equal parts indulgent and healthy.
Following the release of her new book, Half Hour Hero, I suggested to my editor that I follow Roz's diet for a week. I was met with a positive response, but warned to make sure that I exercised accordingly alongside the diet, as it's no secret that Roz's incredible body is a result of her rigorous exercise routine - she previously said she sometimes exercises 11 times a week - and is fuelled by her meals.
I'll admit, when the book landed on my desk I was expecting complicated recipes that take hours to prepare, an ingredients list as long as my arm and recipes calling for products I'd never even heard of. I was preparing for a gruelling week that left me slaving in the kitchen, an extortionately priced food shop and subsequently wondered if I'd made a huge mistake.
After flicking through the first few pages, I was quickly proven wrong. In the introduction Roz says, "This book ticks all the boxes: the recipes are quick, healthy, accessible and fit into a busy lifestyle.
"I wanted to write a book that showcases fast, healthy dishes using basic ingredients that you probably already have in your presses, or if you don't, then at least now you'll know what to stock up on."
And, thankfully, what she wrote is true. Out of all of the recipes in the book, there were only a handful that I was missing ingredients for. Everything else was already in my presses or would be part of my weekly shop. Although it isn't particularly advertised as so, Roz's diet is pretty much gluten-free judging by the recipes, which was a delight to see as I'm coeliac. Saying that, I don't think any non-coeliac would have noticed the absence of gluten from her recipes.
For the week, I attempted to follow Roz's sample meal plan, whereby she makes two breakfast meals, two lunch options, two dinner options and two snacks that can be made ahead in bulk and varied throughout the week.
For breakfast, I ditched my measly bowl of cereal for porridge with almond milk, topped with berries, seeds and honey. You'd never guess, but that's the most basic derivation of Roz's porridge recipes, with carrot cake, chocolate chip and banana bread listed as variations.
I made a batch of easy oat scones on the Sunday to last through the week, however they were so delicious that they were quickly gobbled down in less than 24 hours. I also made a huge pot of carrot and cannellini bean soup for lunch, and that itself lasted five days.
The winning dish of the week was the first dinner I made, the chicken, sweet potato and peanut curry. I've attempted several healthy homemade curries over the years, and very few have turned out well. I'm always wary of sweet potato because it always takes much longer than the recipe calls for, so I learned from my mistakes this time and left the curry stewing in a pot for half an hour.
It was incredibly easy to make and I think leaving it for that bit longer intensified the flavour even more. I was apprehensive as I dunked my fork into the bowl, hoping I hadn't wasted my efforts once again but I needn't have worried - it was delicious. Days after making it my dad was still raving about how tasty it was, so that's a winner for me. Feeling adventurous after my small success, later in the week I tried the 'fish curry in a hurry', and I'm glad to say it didn't disappoint.
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With cookbooks filling the shelves promising the moon and the stars for their level of simplicity, only to leave you hunched over the stove for two hours, it was a pleasant surprise to find that none of the recipes took more than a half an hour, as the title promises.
As for exercise, I didn't make it to the gym during my week of eating like Roz due to a busy schedule, but usually I aim to go at least twice per week. Saying that, samples of exercises that can be done at home or in the gym are dotted throughout the book, so I really had no excuse.
Despite my initial reservations, following the recipes in the book was a pleasure rather than a chore. I've bought more cookbooks than I can count over the years in an effort to improve my diet, but this is truly one of the best I've tried. The recipes are varied, simple to follow and leave you feeling like you've really nourished your body - three things I've never before been able to achieve at once.
While I've yet to nail Roz's killer workout routine, I'm pretty happy to start by following her diet.
Half Hour Hero by Roz Purcell (€23) is available in bookshops now.