IN JANUARY most of us have enjoyed the indulgence of Christmas and are ready to prepare dishes that are a little better for us.
If you’re planning a healthier start to the year, there are some simple recipes you can try that are still warming and filling but make the most of winter’s glorious greens, flavourful root vegetables and fresh seafood. Packed with vitamins and minerals, these dishes can also help fight off any winter chills.
The key is to create meals that are balanced, but that you will still enjoy – that are still packed with flavour. Don’t be tempted by “healthy” ready meals. The best way to balance your diet is with fresh, seasonal foods.
Shopping seasonally also means that you’ll be forced to try out new recipes and ingredients and plenty of variety will mean a much more nutritional diet.
This frittata is a brilliant example of a healthy, hearty dish, and really injects some colour on to the plate. Once you master the basic recipe, you can pack it full of fresh fish, seasonal vegetables and herbs to suit your own taste.
You can also keep using the recipe throughout the year by adding the best ingredients the season has to offer. The other joy of this dish is that it can all be cooked in one pot, which means less tidying up to do afterwards. It can even be enjoyed cold for lunch the next day if you have any left over.
Cabbage and kale are both in season, but they get a bit of a bad reputation for being soggy and flavourless. In fact, if you buy these lovely leafy greens fresh, and bring a little imagination to your dishes, they can actually be really delicious and complement seasonal fish and shellfish perfectly. The key is not to overcook them. Just using your imagination can bring these ingredients to life, like this kale pesto, which I love to make. It brings a little twist to a classic basil pesto.
Stick to fresh, seasonal and colourful ingredients and your January health kick will be anything but boring.
SMOKED SALMON, COURGETTE AND RED ONION FRITTATA
150g good quality smoked salmon
2 red onions, peeled
8 large free-range eggs
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp chopped dill
100g Cheddar, finely grated
olive oil for cooking
snipped chives, to finish
Heat the oven to 160C/Gas Mark 2-3. Cut the smoked salmon into strips. Cut the red onions and courgettes into small, even-sized dice. In a large bowl, beat the eggs with a fork until lightly foamy. Season with salt and pepper and then add the chopped dill, smoked salmon and grated cheese.
Heat a little olive oil in a non-stick (or well-seasoned) ovenproof frying pan, about 23cm in diameter, over a medium heat.
Add the onion and cook gently for 2-3 minutes to soften slightly, then add the courgettes and cook together for 2-3 minutes.
Pour the egg mixture over the vegetables in the pan and cook over a low heat for 3-4 minutes. Now transfer the frying pan to the oven and cook for 6-8 minutes until the egg is set and golden on the surface. Sprinkle the frittata with snipped chives.
ROASTED HAKE, BEANS AND KALE WITH KALE PESTO
4 x 180g portion of hake fillets – with the skin on
300g dry white beans (eg tarbais beans)
100g kale (for garnish)
10 x cherry tomatoes
extra virgin olive oil
2l chicken stock
sherry vinegar (to taste)
salt & pepper (to taste)
a few sprigs of thyme
a large pinch of sugar
dash of lemon juice
For the Kale Pesto (makes 250ml)
50g toasted pine nuts
60g kale leaves
1 clove garlic (de-germ)
50g grated Parmesan
125ml extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
For the kale pesto
Blanch the kale leaves in salted water until tender. Refresh in ice water briefly. Chop the leaves finely. Blend with all remaining ingredients in a food processor to create a rough purée. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
For the dish
Soak the beans overnight in plenty of cold water. Slice the cherry tomatoes in half. Sprinkle them with salt and pepper, sugar, thyme leaves, sherry vinegar and olive oil. Leave them in a warm oven at 60C for approximately 2 hours or until nicely dried, then set the tomatoes aside. Finely chop the shallot and sweat in olive oil until translucent. Drain the soaked beans and add to the shallot.
Add the chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Simmer gently until the beans are just soft. Add salt to season the beans and set aside.
Pan fry the hake (skin side down) in a little olive oil until a crispy brown skin has formed. By this time, it should be almost cooked through.
Depending on the thickness of fillets, you can put them in a hot oven until ready or flip in the pan and finish on the other side.
When the fish is almost cooked through, add 10g butter and a dash of lemon juice to baste the fish for the last 10 seconds in the pan. Blanch the kale (in salted water) until tender.
Heat the beans and stir in the remaining butter and parsley to create a nice sauce coating the beans.
Pour the beans in a bowl. Drizzle on some kale pesto. Arrange the cooked hake, kale and cherry tomatoes atop the beans and drizzle with olive oil.