Happy New Year Everyone! January has a lot going for it, I feel. When better to shake off a few dusty routines and habits than after a few weeks of glorious indulgence. I have always liked a fresh start – bring on the resolutions. Never mind if they fizzle or fade, a positive intention is still a wonderful thing. So much as I delight in the fairy lights and tinsel, I always feel happy to pack them away, dust off the cobwebs of the old year and move forward. And a delicious healthy regime is a great way to start – here are some of my favourite vitamin rich foods to celebrate the New Year.
I like to add a few sprigs of mint to my green tea. And a beautiful mug makes it even nicer – this one is a hand made Christmas gift by our talented (eldest) girl! And to go with the tea, how about a few nuts and seeds, dried berries and some squares of inky dark chocolate?
Hmm, what else? A dish of simply steamed Scottish salmon, with a little lemon and pepper. But surely this is still indulgence isn’t it? Especially with a drizzle of this magnificent, jewel green pistachio oil. I bought this bottle in France a few weeks ago. Such a rich, deep roasted nutty flavour.
A few slices of beetroot – more colour, more vibrancy, more flavour…
So that’s the view from my kitchen worktop this week.
As for other new plans and projects this year, well I have been busy and have made a good start. My new studio in the garden – a lovely Scandinavian log cabin – is all built and ready. I’m still working on the finishing touches, a bit of painting and organising all my props and stuff. Of those there are lots – it’s quite a task! I’ll make some photos of the studio in a week or so and post them soon.
What plans do you have for the New year? Drop me a comment if you like – I’d love to hear!
Oh – I forgot the avocado! x
Every so often, I wake up with a resolve to have a scanty eating day or week… a detox, spa day, regime – namely the best spin I can put on restricting my diet after a bit too much indulgence. The problem is that whenever I decide to lighten up on food, all I can think about is food! I have the most robust appetite in my mind and nothing fuels it quite like a bit of abstinence. One day a friend said to me that when she is trying to eat lighter, she thinks about all the things she can eat, rather than the ones she plans to avoid. So I tried that, and guess what? It works. (Sometimes.) So today I’m thinking about steamed fish.
Steamed fish is just plain delicious, spa cuisine or not. Add some spice and fragrant herbs and it is even an indulgence, for body and mind. As for the coconut rice – well that’s just balance isn’t it?
Recently I photographed a few features for Eat Me Magazine. One of the pieces was a recipe feature for snapper steamed in banana leaves with a heady, exotic paste of spices, nuts and herbs. Banana leaves are not always readily available in England but I found some lovely fresh banana leaves in an Oriental supermarket in Oxford – a delightful find among the dreaming spires and honey stone walls. But if you are not so lucky, it is easy enough to steam fish in parchment paper or just in a steamer. More on recipes in a moment.
As you can see, the idea is to make the spice paste, and wrap it together with the fish filet in a leaf and tie with string to secure. Then you steam the fish parcels in the bamboo steamer. Later when you unwrap the leaves it is with the anticipation and delight of opening a yummy present!
So to recipes. I am going to be deliberately vague here because there is so much latitude in this type of cooking. And you can vary things depending on what flavours you like best and what you have available. For an exact recipe, take a look at Issue 5 of Eat Me magazine or email me (see contact page) for a link.
For the steamed fish, take a couple of fresh white fish fillets. Snapper, halibut, or even tilapia will all work well. Lay each fillet out on a generous sheet of parchment or in a good size piece of banana leaf. Cover the fish with a few spoonfuls of the seasoning paste. For the paste, mash together in a mortar or a mini chopper a clove of garlic, a shallot, the juice of a lime, a cube of ginger, a few coriander seeds, a half teaspoon of turmeric, a teaspoon of lemongrass, perhaps a couple of tablespoons of peanuts or macadamia nuts, a tiny spoon of shrimp paste, a small fresh chilli pepper…just choose or omit the ingredients as you wish. Sometimes, I just use a quick squeeze of lime, and little grating of ginger or chilli. Wrap the fish up into a parcel and place in a steamer basket over simmering water. Steam for 10-15 minutes, depending on the size of the fish fillets.
A delicious bowl of rice is a wonderful accompaniment to this fish. You can prepare some simple plain steamed rice, white or brown as you desire. Or perhaps some coconut rice made like this. Take one cup of jasmine rice, or sticky type rice. Add two cups of coconut milk, or half coconut milk/half water if you want it a little lighter. Add a half teaspoon of salt. Cover and bring quickly to a boil then immediately turn the heat down to as low as possible. Allow to rice to gently steam over that very low heat for about 15 minutes, covered all the while. Turn off the heat, and when you are ready to serve garnish with a few coriander (cilantro) leaves and chopped cashew nuts if you like.
Has Spring arrived with a great busy rush for you? It seems to me that the last month or so has been so full, with weddings and school holidays, and bright sunny days all in addition. This is such a wonderful time of year in England. There is so much greenery and life in all the countryside and lanes. The village cricket team is all geared up for the opening match of the season and the pitch is rolled and ready too. And I know it will be my turn to make the cricket teas very soon – perhaps I will post on village cricket teas, what do you think?
Thanks for visiting. More soon.
Happy New Year! It always seems that the New Year is a bit a like a wonderful present – left quietly behind under the tree after the festivities are all over – waiting to cheer and surprise with what might be in store. I love the New Year and the possibilities of fresh starts and change that it heralds. It is a wonderful balance to the comfort of familiarity and tradition that is so much a part of the holiday season. Stability and change – both are great, in moderation!
At this time of year, it is common, and feels natural, to think about things we can improve particularly after the holiday overindulgence with regards to diet and exercise – and there are books and videos galore to guide us in this.
I have been reading two wonderful and inspiring books that have just come from Quadrille Publishing out on this subject. They are very different in style and approach, but share a common view that the path to a healthy body and weight lies not in quick fixes or the indulgence/abstinence rollercoaster that many diets involve and perpetrate. Rather it is about achieving balance in our everyday habits, understanding and choosing the foods that suit us and equally importantly, enjoying eating.
Ian Marber – the Food Doctor – has just published a book entitled How Not To Get Fat. It gives a truly fascinating and unusually clear explanation of how our bodies work in the process of digestion, and the emotional and psychological factors that cause us to gain weight. When I first flicked through this book, I didn’t expect to find it as intriguing as it is – there aren’t any glossy photos of gorgeous salads and glowing people! – and you have to give it the time and respect that it deserves. I thought I had a fairly good knowledge about nutrition and healthy eating but I was amazed at how much I don’t know. Just learning about the biochemistry of digestion was a revelation and made me think about the way that I eat and how a few basic changes can make a big difference.
Ian Marber’s approach to the subject of managing weight is so sensitively and respectfully written. It is absolutely packed with interesting points and I am really enjoying reading it.
Eat right for your body type is the new book by Anjum Anand. (The super healthy diet inspired by Ayurveda.)
Anjum’s book is another sensitive guide to managing weight. She speaks with an understanding as someone who has battled with her weight in the past. In turning to the Ayurvedic principles, she found a way to eat that is in harmony with her body type. There are three body types and you need to establish which type you are, and how to eat and live to maintain balance and harmony for your type. Good health follows from sticking to the basic principles of finding this balance. I found the subject of Ayurveda and the body really interesting, particularly the spiritual elements of this approach.
This book is packed with beautifully photgraphed dishes of yummy, healthy foods that really inspire you to try them out. The recipes are lovely and all provide variations to suit the different types.
Thank you Quadrille for the opportunity to review these two marvellous books.
So now it’s time to start cooking – and eating.
Here’s to a happy and harmonious 2010!