While we love the roast potatoes and mince pies of December, it can leave you feeling a bit sluggish – so eating the rainbow is a sure-fire way to get your energy back in January.
By no means do you have to restrict your food or stop eating the things you love though. Instead, you could use the new year as an opportunity to expand your healthy food repertoire, try some new recipes, and hopefully start reaping all the benefits that come with it.
And there are plenty of new cookbooks to help kickstart your healthy eating journey. You might find they have other benefits too, such as saving money, making your skin glow, and even helping the environment.
‘Bored Of Lunch: The Healthy Slow Cooker Book’ by Nathan Anthony
There’s a bit of a barrier to entry for this book, as all recipes need a slow cooker. However, if you have one, you’re in for a treat – because all the recipes are healthy, delicious and could even save you some pennies.
Belfast-based Nathan Anthony set up Bored of Lunch in 2020 as a way to cook healthier and more delicious meals during the lockdowns – and his Instagram page now has 906k followers. This is his debut cookbook, and is dedicated to dishes you can make in a slow cooker – which is said to have cheaper running costs than conventional ovens.
Anthony doesn’t claim to be a chef or nutritionist, but he certainly knows what works for a home cook. These are the kind of recipes you can prep in advance, chuck into the slow cooker and come home to a delicious dish at the end of the day. And slow cooker meals don’t just have to be an endless parade of stews, with Anthony’s recipes covering everything from Vietnamese beef pho to chicken tacos.
Red lentil dhal
“I absolutely love dhal and this is one of my go-to dishes when I am having a vegetarian day, and it’s sure to become one of your family favourites,” says Anthony.
“The addition of coconut milk makes it deliciously creamy, but you could replace this with a tin of chopped tomatoes for a lower-calorie version, if you prefer.”
380g dried red lentils
250ml cold water
400ml tin of reduced-fat coconut milk
Handful of cherry tomatoes, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 onion, sliced
2.5cm fresh ginger, grated
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp chilli flakes
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp garam masala
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper, to taste
Fresh coriander and chopped
Spring onions, to garnish
1. Place all the ingredients in the slow cooker, stir and season to taste. Cook on low for five to six hours, then stir and garnish with fresh coriander and chopped spring onions.
Ebury Press, £18.99. Photography by Clare Wilkinson. Available 5 January.
‘Happy Skin Kitchen’ by Elisa Rossi
If you’re the kind of person who always wears sunscreen and has a multi-step skincare routine, this is definitely the book for you. It focuses on a particular type of health: skin health. After all, our skin is the largest organ in our bodies, and what we eat and drink is just as important – if not more so – than the lotions and potions we put on it.
This is a highly personal cookbook for author Elisa Rossi, who struggled with painful hormonal acne until adopting a plant-based diet. She describes making small steps towards a diet with more plant-based and whole foods – rather than going cold turkey – and seeing the results in not only her skin, but also her energy levels and fitness. She created Happy Skin Kitchen to share her journey and recipes, and this is her debut cookbook.
Rossi grew up in the countryside near Bologna, Italy, surrounded by organic vegetables and homecooked meals, and this ethos really shines through in her recipes. Dishes are colourful and full of nutritious ingredients – take your pick of everything from fluffy wholegrain pancakes and quinoa and kale falafel, to lemon and tahini courgette pasta and almond butter cups.
Red pesto traybake veg salad
“This is one of my favourite speedy dinners. It’s jam-packed with robust flavours, vegetables and texture, and the red pepper pesto might just be my number-one type of pesto,” says Rossi.
“It’s fresh, tangy, creamy and incredibly versatile. You can also use it as a pasta sauce, as a dip or in sandwiches. This salad is also not lacking in skin-nourishing minerals, vitamins and antioxidants, thanks to the wide array of vibrant vegetables. It’s filling and satiating, thanks to the high-fibre content and the chickpeas, which also bring a good dose of zinc, a wonderful mineral to help keep those breakouts at bay.
“It’s also a great lunchbox-friendly salad: just stir the pesto through the vegetables but keep the rocket on the side so it stays crispy and fresh.”
1 courgette, sliced
1 small aubergine, cut into small cubes
1 red onion, cut into wedges
½ tsp smoked paprika
½ tbsp dried oregano a drizzle of olive oil
1 x 400g tin of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
150g cherry tomatoes, whole
60g pitted olives, sliced
2 tbsp small capers
10g fresh basil, roughly chopped
10g fresh parsley, roughly chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
40g rocket, to serve
For the red pesto:
1 large pointed red pepper (about 170g), whole
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil + extra for brushing
1 garlic clove
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp nutritional yeast
3 sundried tomatoes
1. Preheat the oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7.
2. Put the courgette, aubergine and red onion on a large baking tray. Make sure there is plenty of space, as you will need to add the chickpeas and tomatoes later. Sprinkle over the smoked paprika, dried oregano and a pinch each of salt and pepper, and drizzle everything generously with olive oil. Put the pointed red pepper on a separate tray. Brush it with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
3. Put both trays into the oven. Roast the pointed pepper for 25 minutes, until soft and squishy. Roast the veggies for 15 minutes, then remove from the oven and add the drained chickpeas and cherry tomatoes to the tray. Toss them around so they get evenly coated, and add a little bit more olive oil and salt if needed. Put the tray back into the oven for the final 10 minutes.
4. To make the pesto, remove the stalk, seeds and skin from the roasted pepper. Put the flesh into a food processor with the rest of the pesto ingredients and blitz everything together until smooth and creamy.
5. Add the olives, capers, basil and parsley to the tray of roasted veg. Gently mix everything together.
6. To assemble your salad, arrange the rocket on a large serving dish, then add the roasted veg and chickpea mix. Drizzle over the pesto and mix everything together before serving.
Thorsons, £25. Photography by Elisa Rossi. Available January 5.
‘Healthier Planet, Healthier You’ by Annie Bell
If you’re hoping to adopt a healthier diet this year, why not try and do good for the environment at the same time?
Healthier Planet, Healthier You – by veteran food writer and nutritionist Annie Bell, who has authored 20 cookbooks – is all about how you can adopt the planetary health diet.
This is a way of eating first recommended by a group of scientists in 2019, with the aim of reducing the environmental damage of how we eat – and as an added bonus, it turns out to be pretty good for your health too.
While Healthier Planet, Healthier You isn’t a hugely romantic book – Bell doesn’t wax lyrical about her personal relationship with lentils – what she does is provide practical, well-researched advice on how to cut down on waste in the kitchen (from prepping to storing different types of ingredients), as well as breaking down what impact key ingredients have on the environment, and how much of them we should aim to eat.
Take eggs – the planetary health diet recommends eating one-and-a-half a week. This isn’t particularly feasible, so Bell reduces it to one and has a handy chapter dedicated to one egg dishes – with ranchos eggs with cauliflower and lentils and spinach and Parmesan pancakes on the menu.
The content might be serious, but the recipes are inviting and don’t compromise on flavour. Bell gets inspiration from all over the world, with dishes including spicy Lebanese-style lamb stew, miso-glazed courgette and peppers and Irish stew pie.
Healthier planet burgers
“These burgers go down the half-beef, half-lentil route, and they are every bit as satisfying as a pure beef burger,” says Bell.
“Extras of fried onions, grated cheese, sliced lettuce, or salsa and guacamole for a ‘fiesta’, are also good. Personally I like to eat these sandwiched between crisp lettuce leaves rather than a bun, but over to you.”
For the burgers:
300g lean minced beef
300g cooked green lentils
2 heaped tbsp finely chopped shallots
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil for frying
½ red onion, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
8 cocktail gherkins, sliced
4 wholemeal burger buns, halved
1 beefsteak tomato, sliced
For the mustard mayo:
40g soured cream
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1. Place the beef, lentils, shallots and some seasoning in a food processor and whizz to a sticky mixture, so some of the lentils remain whole. Shape the mixture into eight burgers using a nine-centimetre plain round cutter. If you want you can make them in advance, then cover and chill them.
2. Heat two teaspoons of oil in a large non-stick frying pan over a medium-low heat and fry the burgers, in batches, for two minutes on each side until an even gold, replenishing the oil as necessary. They burn more easily than a pure meat burger, so keep an eye.
3. Combine the sliced onion and gherkins.
4. If serving the burgers with buns, toast the cut side of the buns under a grill, preheated to high. Place a burger on each bun half, smear some mustard over and then plenty of tomato ketchup, or the Mustard mayo (below). Next lay over a slice of tomato and season, then scatter over some sliced onion and gherkin.
5. For the mustard mayo: Blend all the ingredients in a small bowl, cover and chill until required. This will keep well for several days.
One Boat, £18.99. Photography by Nassima Rothacker. Available now.