Holiday Lights

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Entertaining with healthy food doesn’t have to be drab. Serve delicious soups in pretty festive teacups and your guests will be delighted. In case you need some soupy inspiration or tender loving care, here’s one I made earlier from Simple Recipes for Joy.

(Sharon Gannon is one of the founders of the Jivamukti Yoga method. As well as being an inspiring yoga teacher, amongst her passions is kitchen cuisine and she runs a successful vegan café in New York called Jivumktea Café. Her approach to the culinary arts embodies her spirit towards life, holistic and full of light.)

This soup will leave you feeling wonderful and nourished and is perfect for the holidays.

Red lentil and tomato soup

Serves 8-10

1 cup of red lentils
8 cups of water, plus more as needed
2tbsp sunflower oil
1 large onion, diced
1tbsp vegetable stock in ¼ cup boiling water
1tsp ground cumin
1tsp curry powder
Large can of tomato sauce
1 cup coconut milk
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In a large soup pot, place the lentils and rinse with cold water, then drain. Add the water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, partially covered, for about 45 minutes, until lentils are mostly dissolved.

Meanwhile, in a separate pan, heat oil over a medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté for 5-10 minutes, until translucent. Add stock, cumin and curry powder and simmer for three minutes, stirring often and adding water if necessary to reach the consistency of a thin paste.

In a blender, puree the tomatoes and coconut milk. Add the sautéed onion mixture and blend until smooth.

When the lentils are cooked, add the tomato mixture and more water as needed to obtain the desired consistency. Raise the heat to high and bring to a boil. Add salt and pepper to taste and remove from heat.

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Bless you…

Not everyone hates cold weather, I sort of love it. In Karachi we would wait in anticipation of November and December, then we would BBQ on my best friend’s balcony or chill at Roadside Cafe with a bonfire. When it’s cold outside there’s nothing more lovely than the thought of keeping warm with cosy knits, a warm fire, hot drinks and fleece blankets.

Of course with chillier weather comes other nasties, like colds and flus. I have an autoimmune disorder. If I catch a cold or flu it usually ends up initiating a domino effect of one thing after another on my body so taking care of myself is usually at the top of my to do list. Since switching my old eating habits for a more alkaline diet, I have found a remarkable improvement with my condition.

Keeping colds and flu at bay all winter requires more gentle tactics, more magnesium in one’s diet, a daily green juice, immunity boosting foods packed with nutrients and vitamins all help to keep on top of the weather as opposed to under. However, when an actual cold or flu beckons, launch a full on attack.

This weekend’s weather left its mark on me, Sunday night I felt the beginnings of an achy body, that feverish glow and a strange head that felt like it didn’t belong on my neck. I have too much to look forward to this weekend, a cottage trip away at Golden Lakes and lots to do before then, the last thing I want is to get sick.

Call me stubborn, but I hate taking medicine, especially when I am sick, unless it’s got that natural thing going for it.

The way I tackle a cold is by not letting it take hold and fester. As soon as I feel the slightest one, a ginger, turmeric and lemon shot (yes I know) loaded with raw honey, cayenne and cinnamon does wonders for me, as does a shot of wheatgrass with a few potent drops of chlorophyll. A leafy green juice, some avocado and boiled eggs with black pepper alongside a cup of green tea is my choice breakfast. I also stay hydrated with lots of fluids like herbal tea, coconut water and some good old H2O.

Then there’s my favourite type of chicken noodle soup, khow suey. Everyone has their own spin on this and there are countless recipes out there, so find your favourite. My one is full of cold busting ingredients like ginger, garlic, healing spices and coconut milk – you see where I am going with this don’t you? It can easily be made vegan, if you omit the chicken, it is gluten free and has no added salt. It’s the ultimate noodle comfort dish when you have a cold or flu, my advice is to make a massive batch of it, while you still have the strength. Or, try bribing someone who loves you to cook it, use the ‘I’m not feeling well’ card.

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Khow Suey

Serves four

1tbsp coconut oil
1 medium onion chopped
1 tomato diced
1tbsp grated ginger
1tbsp chopped garlic
2 Thai green chilies finely sliced (optional, with or without seeds)
1tbsp Thai red curry paste
1tsp curry powder
1/2tsp each of cinnamon, ground cumin, ground coriander, turmeric, cayenne (leave it out, if you aren’t a big fan of spice) and nutmeg
3 cups low sodium broth
4 organic skinless chicken thighs
Coconut milk
1tbsp coconut sugar
Bunch of basil leaves
2 spring onions chopped
4 oz mushrooms (your choice what type)
100g brown rice noodles (cooked to packet instructions)
Fresh coriander and lime to serve

Heat oil on a medium low heat, add onions and cover for 15 minutes or until nice and brown. Add the tomato and cover for another 15 minutes turning the heat up a little.

Stir in ginger, garlic, chilli and sauté briefly.

Stir in curry paste, ground spices and sauté briefly, once the spices let off their fragrance add a quarter cup of stock and the chicken thighs and coat them well. Fry in mixture like this for about five minutes.

Mix in the rest of the chicken stock, coconut milk and bring to a boil. Add sugar, basil leaves, spring onions and mushrooms and simmer until thighs are cooked through.

To serve, add the brown rice noodles, coriander and a squeeze of lime.

Tip: Chop your onions and get them going first, while they brown, do the rest of your prep.