Top tips on how to stay healthy over the festive season…

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In the lead up to Christmas it’s all too for our minds and bodies to become overwhelmed by all of the indulgence and excess that the holiday period brings with it. However, staying mindful and healthy doesn’t have to be as tricky as we might first think. Christmas is a time for indulgence, relaxing, and celebrating – we all need a bit of time off over the holidays, but with work events and dinners filling up the social calendar, it can be easy to get swept along in the storm, with our health and nutrition goals often following not far behind. But fear not, by following my simple tips below, you can not only enjoy Christmas in all its glory, but stay happy and healthy along the way too – wave goodbye to feelings of guilt and anxiety, and get ready to welcome 2017 with a happy healthy bang!

PLAN AHEAD
Over Xmas we’re often rushing from one place to the next, trying to find last minute presents, or running to the next work or social event, which can mean we end up running to the nearest fast food outlet or supermarket to grab a quick snack. Plan ahead – make sure you’ve always got some healthy snacks on you to avoid reaching for the convenient ‘not so healthy’ option. Homemade energy balls, oatcakes, hummus, carrot/celery sticks and nuts, are all great options that will not only keep blood sugar levels balanced, but that will leave you feeling fuller for longer. Why not try keeping healthy snacks at the office too, and avoid reaching for the Xmas biscuit tin when you’re feeling a bit peckish!

REGULAR EXERCISE
Even though we are all extra busy at this time of year, try to make it a priority to stay on top of your normal exercise routine. This will help your health stay on track over the festive period, and regular exercise will lessen your appetite for sugary, refined foods. If you’re feeling the effects of stress or fatigue over the holidays, why not try some yoga, pilates, tai chi, qigong, or meditation classes.

ALTERNATE DRINKS
I
t can be hard to avoid all of the drinks and dinners during the Christmas period, especially as work and office events begin to take over our social calendars. So to lessen the effects of all this extra alcohol on our bodies, have a glass of water between each drink – this will slow down the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream, and will help flush the alcohol and toxins from our body. Try to opt for gin or vodka and tonic when choosing drinks, as these contain far fewer calories than wine and cocktails, and adding a slice of lemon and lime will have an alkalising effect on the body.

DON’T BE AFRAID TO SAY NO
It’s so easy to end up saying ‘yes’ to every event that comes our way during the rush and excitement of Christmas, but try not to feel pressured into attending everything. Say yes to the ones that are important to you, and avoid those where you know your health goals may be extremely hard to stick to.

EAT BEFOREHAND
Events where there’s a buffet or finger food can often leave you unsatisfied, going back for more time and time again, as they are often rich in sugar and unhealthy fats. Try eating something before you go – a protein rich salad or light meal, so that you won’t arrive feeling hungry, and won’t be tempted to launch into the inviting spread.

PLAN YOUR COURSES
If you’re going to a sit-down meal with several courses, choose what you’re going to have beforehand – this way you won’t have to order under pressure and fall back on one of the less healthy options. Be wise and ensure you go for something with a nice amount of protein, healthy fats, and complex carbs, staying clear of the refined stuff as much as possible.

WISE CHOICES
Make the most of your indulgent foods over the Christmas period. Instead of reaching for foods that you can have at any time of the year, choose foods that have a special Christmas meaning to you. We all like to indulge at this time of year, and that’s absolutely fine, just make sure you really enjoy and savour what you go for.

DON’T SKIP BREAKFAST
Make sure you eat a healthy, balanced breakfast, rich in protein and healthy fats, even if you know you are eating out and indulging later. Eating a nutritious breakfast will help to balance blood sugar levels, and will keep you feeling fuller for longer, making it easier to avoid over-eating later.

LOVE YOUR GUT
Invest in a good probiotic. These are full of good gut bacteria, which help to keep our gut nice and healthy, and will lessen the effects of alcohol and rich food on the digestive system. Topping up with these guys over the holiday season can help to combat bloating and constipation, keeping everything flowing along nicely.

B VITS
Increased alcohol consumption can mean that our levels of B vits can quickly deplete. B vitamins are essential for so many chemical reactions in the body, and are vital for energy production, so when we are lacking in these, we can often feel fatigued, sluggish, and drained. Green leafy veg, brown rice, and oats are great sources, so make sure you’re getting enough in your diet. You can also invest in a B complex supplement if you want to make sure your levels are tip top.

HERBAL TEAS
Try to have a herbal tea after eating big meals, this will help to digest the food and lighten the load on the digestive system. Ginger, fennel, dandelion, peppermint, are all good for helping digestion, and relieving indigestion and bloating. Maybe try having one before dessert, as may lessen your want for something sweet after dinner.

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Healthy Halloween Feast

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As Winter fast approaches, and with Halloween just around the corner, we turn our attention to more hearty wholesome dishes, with extra heat and spice, and go in search of sweets and treats that will see us through the Autumnal holiday season. Halloween is a fun, creative time for all the family, with pumpkin carving, apple bobbing, fancy dressing, and trick or treating taking over households everywhere. I love the ghoulish festivities myself, and have plenty of tricks and treats up my sleeve to make sure your Halloween remains a happy healthy one. In last week’s ‘Food of the Week’ we focussed on the numerous benefits of the all-important pumpkin, with a decadent spiced pumpkin chai latte recipe to cater for all your coffee drinking needs, and this week we turn our attention to the super spice, ginger, showcasing a healthy gingerbread man recipe that’s nutritious and fun for all the family.

If you’re feeling extra creative and in need of a little more inspiration, then why not get family, friends, neighbours together, and give these Halloween hits a whirl!

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MAKES 25

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup dates (roughly chopped)
  • ¼ cup raw honey or maple syrup
  • ¼ cup real pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 tbspn chia seeds
  • 1 tspn ground cinnamon
  • ¾ tspn ground ginger
  • ½ tspn ground nutmeg
  • pinch of sea salt or Himalayan salt
  • 1 cup toasted coconut chips
  • ¾ cup pumpkin seeds (toasted).
  • Desiccated coconut (optional decoration)
  • Chopped walnuts (optional decoration)

Put the dates, honey, pumpkin puree, chia seeds, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and a pinch of salt in a food processor, and blend until all the ingredients have combined to form a smooth mixture.

Remove the mixture from the processor and transfer to a bowl. Add the oats, coconut chips and pumpkin seeds, and work everything together until combined. Cover the bowl and put into the fridge for 30 minutes.

Once cooled, use a spoon or your hands to shape the mixture into balls of equal size. Roll the balls in the desiccated coconut or chopped walnuts to finish.

The energy balls can be stored in the fridge for up to 2 weeks, so make sure you make enough to keep you going when you need a snack on the go!

 

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PERFECT ACCOMPANIMENT TO HALLOWEEN STEWS, HOTPOTS & CURRIES

SERVES 2

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 inch piece of ginger (peeled and thinly sliced)
  • 1/2 butternut squash (peeled and diced)
  • 1 cup brown or red rice
  • 1 tbspn coconut oil or coconut butter
  • ½ tspn sea salt or Himalayan salt

Add the water and ginger to a saucepan and bring to the boil. Then add the squash, rice, butter, and a pinch of salt, and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover and leave for about 20 minutes, until the squash is nice and tender, and the liquid has absorbed.

 

 

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MAKES 3 APPLES

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 wooden skewers or lollipop sticks
  • 1/3 cup coconut sugar
  • 1/4 cup raw honey (can use normal honey if don’t have raw)
  • 2 tbspn coconut oil
  • Pinch sea salt or Himalayan salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 small apples (Cox or Braeburn are god choices)
  • 2 handfuls pecans and hazelnuts (roughly chopped – for the topping)

Line a baking tray with baking parchment, and then prepare the apples by sticking a wooden skewer or lollipop stick into the top of them.

In a small saucepan, add the coconut sugar, honey, coconut oil, salt, and vanilla extract. Bring to a simmer over a medium heat. Once the mixture begins to bubble around the edges, set a timer for 2 minutes, and stir constantly. Take off the heat, being extremely careful, as the mixture will be scalding hot.

Working as quickly as possible, holding the end of the skewer, hold the apple over the saucepan. With the other hand carefully spoon over the caramel, turning the apple to coat it completely. Place the apple back on the baking parchment and top with the crushed nuts, then repeat with the remaining apples.

 

 

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SPICED PUMPKIN CHAI LATTE

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INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tea bag of spiced chai
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup unsweetened almond milk or plant based milk of your choice
  • ¼ cup real pumpkin purée
  • 1 tbspn maple syrup or raw honey
  • ¼ tspn vanilla extract
  • ⅛ tspn cinnamon
  • ⅛ tspn ground ginger
  • ¼ tspn ground nutmeg
  • sprinkle cloves
  • Pinch sea salt or Himalayan salt
  • cinnamon stick or star of anise (optional garnishes)

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Bring ½ a cup of water to a gentle boil in a saucepan, then remove from the heat, and add the tea bag, and steep for 4-5 minutes.

Add the almond milk, pumpkin purée, maple syrup or honey, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves and a pinch of salt to the pan. Pour the mixture into a blender and blend for a couple of minutes, until the ingredients are mixed together, and are nice and creamy.

Pour the mixture back into the pan and re-heat gently, then pour it into your favourite mug. Garnish with an optional cinnamon sick or star of anise, then sit back and enjoy!

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5 Simple Hearty Soup Recipes

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Now that we are fast approaching the autumn season, it’s time to get thinking about meals that will keep us cosy, warm, and satisfied as the nights begin to draw in. Soups are great if you’re trying to keep the calories down, and you can experiment by using a variety of vegetables, beans, lentils – pretty much anything you like can be thrown in! Why not try making a nutrient dense bone broth to use as the base of your soup – stay tuned for my upcoming bone broth recipe in ‘Food of the Week’, and why not batch cook your favourite soups and store in the freezer, ready for lunches during the week or convenient meals in the evening. These 5 simple yet hearty soup recipes are jam packed with nourishing nutrients, bursting with flavour, and will leave you feeling satisfied with each mouthful! SOUP-ER EASY, SOUP-ER HEALTHY

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SERVES 4

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tbspn ghee or coconut oil
  • 1 large onion (diced)
  • 2 garlic cloves (finely chopped)
  • 2 celery sticks (diced)
  • 1 handful fresh parsley (finely chopped) – keep some to serve
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 3 carrots (cut into small chunks)
  • 1⅓ litres chicken bone broth (homemade or bought)
  • 2 large handfuls cooked roast chicken (shredded)
  • 2 handfuls kale (finely chopped)
  • 2 handfuls cabbage (finely chopped)
  • 1 tbspn juice of a lemon
  • Pinch of sea salt or Himalayan salt
  • Pinch of black pepper
  • Extra virgin olive oil (to serve)

Fry the onion in the ghee or coconut oil in a large pot until soft. Add the garlic and celery and cook for a minute, stirring occasionally. Add the carrots, parsley stems (finely chopped), broth, and bay leaves, then bring to the boil. Then lower the heat to a medium simmer.

When the carrots soften, add the chicken, the kale and cabbage, and cook for a few minutes. Remove from the heat, season with a good pinch of salt, pepper, and the lemon juice. Ladle into bowls and serve with a pinch of parsley leaves and a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. You will be able to see the bay leaves in the soup, so either remove or just avoid eating.

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SERVES 4

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tspn coconut oil or ghee
  • 1 onion (diced)
  • 2 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
  • 2 carrots (finely chopped)
  • 1 cup of dry red or green lentils (rinsed)
  • 1 small butternut squash (chopped into small chunks)
  • 1⅓ litres vegetable or chicken broth (homemade or bought)
  • 2 tspns fresh thyme
  • 1 tspn dried basil
  • 1 tspn dried oregano
  • ¼ tspn paprika
  • Black pepper
  • Sea salt or Himalayan salt

Heat the coconut oil or ghee in a large pot, then add the onion, garlic, and carrots, and cook until the onions start to soften. Add the lentils, squash and 1 litre of the broth to the pan. Then add the herbs, paprika, and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat to a medium simmer, and leave for about 30 minutes. Add the remaining broth, and cook for a further 5-7 minutes. Remove from the heat and serve with some crusty sourdough or soda bread.

 

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SERVES 2

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tbspn coconut oil
  • 1 onion (finely chopped)
  • 2 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
  • 1 stick celery (finely chopped)
  • 1 small red or green chilli (finely chopped)
  • ¼ tspn chilli powder
  • ¼ tspn paprika
  • 2 ½ cups corn kernels (tinned or fresh)
  • 250 ml vegetable or chicken broth (homemade or bought)
  • 100 ml coconut milk
  • Large handful fresh parsley (roughly chopped)
  • Black pepper
  • Sea salt or Himalayan salt

Heat the coconut oil in a large pot, and add the onion, garlic, celery and chilli. Cook on a medium heat for about 10 minutes, until the onion and celery begin to soften. Add the chilli powder, paprika, corn kernels, and cook for another 2 minutes, then add the vegetable or chicken broth. Use an immersion blender to roughly blend the soup, so that a chunky consistency remains. Add the coconut milk and a good pinch of salt and pepper, then bring to the boil, and reduce the heat to a low simmer. When the soup is heated all the way through, after about 15-20 minutes, remove from the heat, and serve with a good sprinkling of fresh parsley, and some warm crusty sourdough bread.

 

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SERVES 2

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tbspn coconut oil or ghee
  • 1 onion (finely chopped)
  • 2 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
  • Thumb-sized piece of ginger (grated)
  • 2 leeks (roughly chopped)
  • 2 cups broccoli (roughly chopped)
  • 2 cups brussel sprouts (trimmed cut into halves)
  • 3 cups spinach
  • ½ tspn ground coriander
  • ½ tspn ground turmeric
  • 1 litre vegetable or chicken broth (homemade or bought)
  • Tspn natural or Greek yoghurt (to serve)
  • Black pepper
  • Sea salt or Himalayan salt

In a large pot, heat the coconut oil or ghee over medium heat. Cook the onion until they begin to soften, then add the garlic and ginger, and cook for a further minute. Add the broccoli, leeks and sprouts, and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the coriander, turmeric, broth, and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a medium simmer. Cover and cook for about 20-25 minutes, until the vegetables have softened, then stir the spinach through until wilted. Use a food processor or immersion blender to blend the soup. The sickness of the soup completely depends on what you prefer, so blend until it is the right consistency for you. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and why not try adding a teaspoon of natural or Greek yoghurt to finish.

 

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SERVES 4

INGREDIENTS
Broth:

2 large onions (quartered)
2 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
4-inch piece fresh ginger (sliced)
3 carrots (roughly chopped)
2 cinnamon sticks
2 whole star anise
3 cloves
2 tspn coriander seeds
1 1/3 litres beef broth (homemade or bought)
1 tbspn tamari
1 tbspn fish sauce

Soup ingredients:
225g sirloin steak
225g dried rice noodles
Drizzle extra virgin olive oil (for the noodles)
3 spring onions (finely chopped)
1 small red or green chilli (finely chopped)
1 lime (quartered)
1 cup bean sprouts
½ cup fresh coriander (roughly chopped)
½ cup fresh basil (roughly chopped)
Few mint leaves

Peel the ginger and slice it into strips down its length. Char the onions and ginger by using tongs, and char on all sides over high flame on a gas stove, until they begin to blacken. Rinse them under cool water to remove any bits that are overly charred.

Place the cinnamon, star anise, cloves, and coriander seeds in a large pot and dry-roast over a low-medium heat for a couple of minutes, stirring frequently, and until fragrant.

Add the broth, tamari, fish sauce, carrots, and the charred onions and ginger to the pot with the spices.

Bring the broth to a boil over medium heat, then reducing the heat, cover and simmer for about 30 minutes, allowing time for all the flavours to infuse.

While the broth is simmering, put the beef on a plate, cover with cling film, and freeze for 10-15 minutes. This will make it easier to slice the beef. When removed from the freezer, immediately slice into thin slices. Then re-cover and keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

Bring a saucepan of water to the boil and cook the rice noodles (according to the instructions on the packet). Strain and run under cold water to cool. Toss the noodles with a drizzle of olive oil to prevent them from sticking together.

Place the bean sprouts, spring onions, chilli, lime quarters, and herbs in a serving dish, ready for people to help themselves.

When the broth is ready, strain and remove all the solids. Put the broth back on a low heat and keep simmering gently, but not boiling.

Divide the noodles between serving bowls and top with a single layer of raw beef (a few slices), so that they cook evenly when the broth is added. Ladle the steaming broth into the bowls, pouring evenly over the beef so that it cooks – the beef should start to turn opaque in colour. The amount of broth depends on the preference of each person. Let everyone help themselves to the toppings on the table, and more broth if they wish. Enjoy!

 

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Spiced Chicken Skewers with Mango and Lentil Salad

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These simple but delicious skewers are perfect for the BBQ season!

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 ½ cups puy lentils
  • 4 chicken breasts
  • 1 clove garlic (finely chopped)
  • 1 tspn cumin
  • 1 tspn turmeric
  • ¼ tspn cinnamon
  • Rind of 1 orange (finely grated)
  • 2 tspn avocado oil or coconut oil
  • 1 bunch fresh coriander
  • 1 small red onion (finely chopped)
  • ½ cucumber (finely chopped)
  • 1 mango (peeled and chopped into chunks)
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • ½ a chilli (optional)
  • Black pepper
  • Sea salt or Himalayan salt

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First, start by cooking the lentils for about 45 minutes in simmering water. Then soak 4 wooden skewers in water for about 10 minutes so they don’t burn on the grill or BBQ.

Cut the chicken breast into bite sized pieces. Combine the cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, garlic, orange rind, and a pinch of salt and pepper in a bowl, and then coat the chicken pieces evenly with the mix. Skewer the chicken pieces and brush all over with the avocado or coconut oil.

When the lentils are about 10 minutes from being ready, cook the chicken skewers on a griddle pan or BBQ, over a medium heat, for 3-4 minutes on each side, or until the chicken is completely cooked through.

While the skewers are cooking, add the mango, onion, cucumber, chilli, coriander, and lime juice to a bowl. Stir the lentils through the salad and serve alongside the succulent chicken skewers.

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Bircher Muesli

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This recipe is super easy and can be made the night before – perfect for an on-the-go breakfast!

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 ½ cups almond milk, or any other plant based milk
  • 1 apple (grated)
  • 1 tspn raw honey or maple syrup
  • 1 tspn pumpkin seeds
  • 1 tspn sesame seeds
  • 1 tbspn chis seeds
  • 2 handfuls chopped walnuts or almonds
  • Handful goji berries or pomegranate seeds
  • ½ tspn cinnamon
  • Handful berries

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Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl, apart from the berries, and soak overnight. Top with the berries in the morning, some more seeds, or even a drizzle of almond/cashew butter if you wish.

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Meatballs with tomato sauce

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INGREDIENTS

FOR THE MEATBALLS

  • 1 small onion (finely chopped)
  • 2 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
  • 1 tbspn ghee or coconut oil
  • 500g minced beef or lamb
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 tspn dried oregano
  • Pinch of chilli flakes (optional)
  • Handful fresh basil
  • Black pepper
  • Sea salt or Himalayan salt

FOR THE SAUCE

  • 2 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
  • 2 cans chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tspn coconut sugar
  • 1 tbspn balsamic vinegar
  • Black pepper
  • Sea salt or Himalayan salt

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Heat half of the ghee or coconut oil in a pan and gently cook the chopped onions until they begin to soften. Remove of the pan and tip into a bowl, adding the mince, oregano, egg yolks, and chilli. Add a pinch of black pepper and sea/Himalayan salt, and combine the mixture together with your hands. Then divide the mixture into 24 balls of equal size.

Heat the rest of the ghee/oil in the pan and gently brown the meatballs. Remove the meatballs from the pan and set aside. Add the garlic to the pan and cook until it begins to turn golden. Add the tomatoes, balsamic vinegar and coconut sugar, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, then gently simmer for about 5 minutes. Add the meatballs to the pan, lowering the heat slightly, and cover. Cook for a further 20 minutes.

Serve with wholemeal or spelt pasta, or use a spiralizer to whip up some courgetti for a lighter option. Finish with a sprinkle of fresh basil.

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Peppers stuffed with Goats Cheese, Walnuts and Mixed Veg

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INGREDIENTS – SERVES 2

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 red peppers (high in vitamin C)
  • Tspn coconut oil
  • 1 small onion (finely chopped)
  • 1 garlic clove (finely chopped)
  • 1 small courgette (finely chopped)
  • Handful chestnut or button mushrooms (finely chopped)
  • 1 large tomato (finely chopped)
  • 1 tspn cumin
  • 20g walnuts (crushed)
  • 1 tspn ground coriander
  • Handful fresh coriander (to garnish)
  • 100g goats’ cheese (crumbled)
  • Sea salt or Himalayan salt
  • Black pepper

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Preheat oven to 200C/gas mark 6/400F

Cook the quinoa in a pan of simmering water for about 20 minutes, or until the water has absorbed.

Cut the peppers in half, removing the seeds, and bake in the oven for about 15 minutes.

Heat the coconut oil in a pan over a medium heat, and cook the onion and garlic until they begin to soften. Add the courgette, mushrooms, tomato, cumin and coriander, and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring occasionally. Tip the vegetables into a bowl and stir through the crushed walnuts. Add the quinoa and season with a good pinch of salt and pepper, and stir everything together.

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HADDOCK POACHED IN COCONUT MILK

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INGREDIENTS

  • 400ml coconut milk
  • 2 fresh fillets of haddock
  • 1 piece of lemongrass (lightly crushed)
  • 2 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
  • Zest and juice of 1 lime
  • 1 ½ tbspns fish sauce
  • 2 chillies (finely chopped)
  • ¼ cup white wine
  • Small piece of ginger
  • Handful fresh coriander
  • 1 ½ cups brown rice

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Start by getting the brown rice cooking – this recipe is super quick so don’t leave the rice until the last minute.

Put the coconut milk, white wine, garlic, lime juice and zest, lemongrass, chillies, and ginger in a pan. Heat to just boiling and then reduce to a light simmer for about 5 minutes to let all the flavours combine. Place the fish fillets in the pan and poach until cooked through (about 10 minutes) – they should be opaque in colour. Place some rice in 2 bowls and lay the poached fish on top. Drizzle over some of the liquid from the pan, and finish with a pinch of fresh coriander, sesame seeds, and a squeeze of lime. Serve with steamed broccoli, cauliflower and green beans for a delicious hearty meal!

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CHIA SEED PUDDING

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INGREDIENTS

  • 250ml almond or coconut milk
  • 4 tbspns chia seeds
  • ¼ tspn vanilla extract
  • ½ to 1 tspn maple syrup or date syrup or raw honey
  • ¼ tspn cinnamon

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Put the chia seeds, syrup/honey, vanilla, cinnamon, and milk in a jar or glass container, and mix everything together. Place in the fridge overnight and you will have a delicious breakfast waiting for you in the morning. Top with crushed nuts or blueberries to add texture and flavour.

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