Dad bod, the scourge of the modern middle-aged man. A label more than a specific condition pushed upon overworked and under-rested men. At least that's my excuse.
I've been lean for most of my life but the last few years of work, travel and fatherhood have facilitated the little pouch and belt loosening. It creeps up slowly and efforts to reverse it proceed at a snail's pace.
At the beginning of this year I was all set to take the new year by the horns and get life back on track. After two years of parenthood and years of running around with little rest before that, it was time to get back to some positive patterns and routines that had fallen by the wayside due to juggling nap times, nappies and work. After a mere three weeks of sweating in the gym and sticking to my new dad-bod bowl regime, Covid-19 hit and, like most people, my plans went out the window.
Now, worried about the prevalent Covid kilos, I'm ready to make a bit of a change and so I'm looking towards lighter eating with a focus on dishes that are easy to make and happen to be good for you. My line-up of dishes this week are here to help you (and I!) find your way back on the straight and narrow.
Tofu is now readily available in shops and it's about time we learn how to cook it. Here, it's doused in teriyaki sauce and fried until crisp, making it an ideal addition to a virtuous cauliflower rice bowl.
A simple chicken recipe that relies on the best of your store-cupboard served up with sweet potato mash and crispy chickpeas makes for a great lunch-box on the go - or even cooked fresh. And my make-in-minutes spiced prawn stew served with a quick avocado salsa is the type of lighter eating you're going to want to get on board with.
Three dad-bod-friendly bowls for almost every occasion - now, step away from the sweets...
If you have a bit of extra time, you can press the tofu for up to 30 minutes to extract even more water, then marinate it for 15-20 minutes in a little extra teriyaki sauce before cooking. You will find that the tofu gets crispier and is even more delicious.
250g (9oz) firm tofu
1 tbsp cornflour
3 tbsp sunflower oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2cm ( ¾in) piece of ginger, peeled and grated
200g (7oz) ready-made cauliflower rice (defrosted if frozen)
4 tbsp teriyaki sauce
½ cucumber, peeled, deseeded and julienned
2 carrots, peeled and julienned
Frying pan or wok with lid
1. Press the tofu firmly between kitchen paper to remove as much water as possible. Cut into 2cm (¾in) cubes and coat in the cornflour seasoned with salt and pepper.
2. Heat half the oil in a frying pan or wok and fry the tofu over a high heat until golden all over - allow a crust to form on all sides. Remove from the pan and set aside.
3. Add the remaining oil to the pan and fry the garlic and ginger for 1-2 minutes, then add the cauliflower rice and a splash of water, cover and steam for 2-3 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside.
4. Add the tofu back to the pan with the teriyaki sauce and return to the heat to bubble until the tofu is coated all over.
5. Serve the tofu on a bed of cauliflower rice with the cucumber and carrots arranged around the bowl. Serve immediately.
For the chickpeas:
1 x 400g tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 tbsp olive oil
For the sweet potato mash:
750g sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 3cm chunks
2tbsp wholegrain mustard
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the chicken:
1 tbsp olive oil
4 boneless chicken thighs
2 red onions, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves
50ml white wine
2tsp dijon mustard
2 tsp honey
4 tbsp hot sauce
1 tbsp capers
Small handful parsley, roughly chopped
1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/ 180°C/ Gas Mark 4.
2. Toss the chickpeas in olive oil in a large roasting tray, season and roast on the middle shelf of the oven for 25-30 minutes until golden and crispy.
3. Meanwhile, make the sweet potato mash. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil. Add the sweet potato and gently simmer for 20 minutes until cooked through. Drain and return to the pan with the butter and mustard. Use a potato masher to mash the potatoes until completely smooth. Season to taste.
4. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and fry over a medium heat along with the red onions and garlic, stirring occasionally so the onion doesn't catch the base of the pan. Cook for 10 minutes until the onions have caramelised. Stir through the garlic and sauté for a minute.
5. Turning the chicken, add the white wine and simmer for another minute - the wine should have almost evaporated. Stir through the butter, dijon, honey, hot sauce and capers, tossing to coat the onion and chicken in the sauce. Season with salt and pepper. The sauce should be glossy and thickened at this point.
6. Serve the sweet potato mash topped with the chicken, all those pan sauces, the rocket and crispy chickpeas along with some freshly chopped parsley.
Prawns are great at soaking up all the spicy flavour of this zingy Mexican stew.
2 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1-2 tbsp chipotle paste
2 x 400g tins mixed beans, drained and rinsed
1x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
2x 150g packets raw prawns
2 avocados, diced
1 small red onion, finely diced juice of 1 lime
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
large handful of chopped coriander
Deep frying pan
1. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat and gently fry the garlic and chipotle paste for 1 minute, then add the beans, the tomatoes and 100ml (½ cup) water. Season well with salt and pepper and bubble for 15 minutes until thickened and no longer raw-tasting.
2. Add the prawns and cook for 1-2 minutes until they are pink all over.
3. Meanwhile, mix the avocados with the onion and lime juice. Season well, drizzle over the extra-virgin olive oil and stir in half the coriander.
4. Scatter the rest of the coriander over the bean and prawn stew and serve with the salsa.