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Comfort Foods

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Happy 2020! It's around this time of year where the resolutions we made in January are starting to slip.
"I'm joining a gym"
"I'm going to stop checking my phone"
"I'm going to be a better spouse/parent/child" (delete where applicable)
"I'm cutting out carbs/dairy/meat" (delete where applicable)
Don't be so hard on yourself. We're all doing are best.
And when it comes to healthy eating...... winter can be tricky. We want something warm and filling, but we don't want to be eating too many calorie laden foods.
Many people ask me for advice on meal preparation. The conversation usually starts with: "I'm gluten free" or "I'm dairy free" or "I'm vegan" are the latest precursor to most of these questions. To which I always ask: "Have you taken medical advice?"
I tend to stick with my grandmother's adage "a little bit of what you fancy does you good". 
Comfort food is usually a food that provides nostalgia along with calories – from childhood memories of Mac and cheese to warming bowls of bean and barley soup … or mashed potatoes oozing with butter and creamy salmon bake.
My comfort food recipes are packed with nostalgia, but easy on the waistline.
Here goes….

Spiced Carrot and Lentil Soup
This soup is super easy to make and has a really rich depth of flavor despite its short ingredient list.
Have a ladle full of this for an immediate "hug in a mug".
Serves 4-6
Preparation time 15 minutes
Cooking time 25 minutes
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 pinch chili flakes
2 tablespoons olive oil
500g carrots
150g red lentils
1 liter water
2 cups almond milk (or regular milk)
1 teaspoon salt
10 grinds black pepper
  1. Peel and grate the carrots either by hand or in the food processor.
  2. Heat a large saucepan and dry-fry the cumin and chili together for a minute or two.
  3. Tip them onto paper towel and heat up the olive oil.
  4. Add the carrots, lentils, stock and almond milk and bring to the boil. Then simmer for 15-20 minutes.
  5. Add the spices, salt and pepper back to the pan and blitz with an immersion blender.

Chicken Stew
There is something really heart-warming about this stew, and for some reason I HAVE to serve it in bowls and not on plates. I don't even bother with rice or couscous – the vegetables make it a filling, one-bowl meal.
Preparation time 15 minutes
Cooking time 1 hour
Serves 4
1 cup flaked almonds
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 red onion, sliced into rings
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 lemon washed and sliced
1 red pepper, sliced into rings
4 chicken thighs, boned with skin on
250ml chicken soup
8 dried apricots, halved
150g frozen green beans
Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Toast the almonds for 1 minute in a dry frying pan – watch them constantly to ensure they don't burn.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan and add the red onion, with the spices and fry until softened.
  3. Add the chicken thighs skin side down and cook until the skin is crispy, then turn over and cook until golden on the other side.
  4. Add the pepper slices, lemon slices, and apricots and then cover with the chicken soup.
  5. Simmer for 45 minutes then add the green beans for the last few minutes of cooking.
  6. Check for seasoning – add salt and pepper now if necessary and sprinkle over the flaked almonds.
  7. Serve in bowls.

Pear Frangipane
These are absolutely delicious fresh from the oven, but take on a different texture once cooled.
Either way they are scrumptious.
You can make a large one of these – I personally like individual ones. If you are making one large one you will need to cook it for a further 20 minutes.
Serves 4
Preparation time 15 minutes
Cooking time 20 minutes
2 large ripe pears, peeled and cored
100g ground almonds
4 tablespoons coconut oil
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 eggs
  1. Grease 4 individual oven proof dishes.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180C.
  3. Slice the pears finely and divide the slices between the dishes.
  4. Whisk up the eggs, oil, and syrup together in a large mixing bowl.
  5. Stir in the almonds.
  6. Pour in the mixture evenly over the pears
  7. Bake for 20 minutes.
  8. These can be served hot or at room temperature.

N.B. I like these serving these with vanilla ice cream or simply shake over some icing sugar. 



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