Tonight’s dinner, sorted!
Finding it hard to eat healthily when it’s cold outside? Damp, limp salad for lunch anyone? We hear you. So we were rather excited to discover Dr Rupy Aujla’s brilliant new cookbook, The Doctor’s Kitchen, which promises to “supercharge your health with 100 delicious everyday recipes”. For a start he’s an actual doctor (a London GP) rather than a self-certified wellness ‘expert’, so he’s straight-talking about diet fads. His recipes are the holy trinity of easy, quick and healthy. And, er, The Sunday Times have described him as “the UK’s answer to McDreamy” – we’re saying nothing because obvs we don’t agree with objectifying men at Muddy. So instead here’s a nice photo of him.
He’s very obliging too – we asked for a speedy supper suggestion and lo and behold, the good doctor rustled up the Mediterranean Cod One-Pot, below. Yum! But first up we had a chat about how to eat more healthily….
Lots of us are really short of time – what tiny tweaks can we make for a healthier diet?
Add colour into your diet – look at your plate and look at where the colour is coming from. Try to get a couple of different colours onto your plate each mealtime – purples, reds, yellows. Look at the different fresh produce that you find in the supermarket and experiment – try something new every week. Also experiment with different types of plant-based protein – eg beans, nuts and seeds. And reduce the amount of meat you have on a weekly basis.
We can’t face cold salads in our office lunchboxes at this time of year – what should we eat instead?
I regularly cook spiced lentils or wild rice that you can heat up at work and mix in with green veg.
We get bored of our own cooking repertoires – any snazzy new ingredients or cuisines we can try?
I’m not a big fan of trends as they tend to inflate health claims. Honestly, the best foods are usually the cheapest and least famous foods on the shelves – red cabbage, different types of carrot (purple, orange, red), beetroot. However teff is something that’s going to be coming up a lot soon. It’s a seed you can get from Ethiopia and it seems to be appearing all over the shelves. But concentrate on the basics – they’re cheap, accessible and more healthy than any of the snazzy new ingredients.
You come home late, hungry and starving to an empty fridge. What do you cook?
This is where having a well-stocked pantry is important, including a selection of spice pastes (they tend to have a good shelf life) and having a range of pastas (not only wholegrain pastas but bean pastas are fantastic). Boil them up, throw in some garlic, chilli, tomatoes, olive oil, throw in frozen peas and any other veg you have lying around. When you don’t have time to cook at all, nut butter on toast is great.
What should we eat to ward off coughs and colds at this time of year?
Have tons of colours and lots of different spices – cinnamon, cloves, ginger, garlic, star anise. These all have anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties. I make broths with chilli and turmeric, then add in different coloured vegetables at the last minute, especially greens as they have lots of magnesium and vitamin C. Don’t overcook it though as you’ll loose the vitamin C. Have this a couple of times a week or when you’re ill.
We’re going to the gym a lot at the mo – should we tweak our diets accordingly? Thoughts on protein shakes?
I’m not a big fan of those shakes. I’d rather get protein from whole sources of food like nut butters and hemp seeds and pumpkin seeds and hazelnuts. These are fantastic ways of getting protein and nutrition post-workout, as well as them being a whole source of magnesium and vitamin C – these are great anti-oxidants and improve your wellbeing overall.
We’ve long given up on our horrible hardcore January diets – is there a more realistic health resolution we can make for 2018?
Do not restrict yourself. This is the best resolution you could make – don’t restrict yourself from enjoying the pleasure of food and indulging in the experiences that give us the breadth of human interaction. Unfortunately I’ve seen a lot of patients who are overly anxious about eating and don’t see the bigger picture of food. Just take each day at a time and make slow and steady change. Enjoy meals. And do something that you find gives you better perspective – I like to practice mindfulness and gratitude. Make sure that you’re present within yourself and that you enjoy the beauty of living!
Roger that! OK, what’s cooking, doc?
One-pot dishes are my favourite midweek meal. They’re comforting and always provide leftovers for lunch. This speedy fish supper is a beautiful mix of Mediterranean spices and punchy flavours. Cooked tomatoes release a gorgeous sweetness and they’re a source of lycopene, a phytochemical shown to potentially reduce the incidence of prostate cancer. A quick dressing using polyphenol-rich coriander and lemon brings a great kick of acidity to the sweetness of the red peppers and leek.
Mediterranean Cod One-Pot (serves 4)
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 shallots, roughly chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 large tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 Romano red pepper, deseeded and roughly chopped
15g coriander, leaves and stalks roughly chopped
400g leeks, trimmed and roughly chopped
1 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp chilli powder
300ml vegetable or chicken stock
300g cooked puy lentils (from a packet is fine)
400g boneless, skinless cod fillets
½ tbsp dried chilli flakes
Grated zest and juice of ½ lemon
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a saucepan over a medium heat, add the shallots and garlic and sauté for a few minutes until soft.
Add the tomatoes, red pepper, coriander stalks, leeks, sweet paprika and chilli powder, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.
Pour in the stock and puy lentils and bring to a simmer for 5 minutes.
Add the cod, cover and cook for a further 8 minutes, until the fish is cooked through.
Mix the remaining oil in a bowl with the chilli flakes and coriander leaves, then stir in the lemon zest and juice.
Serve the stew in large bowls with the dressing drizzled on top.
NB Want to switch it up? Try using other legumes in place of the lentils, such as white beans, chickpeas or kidney beans. Or play around with different spices: harissa or chipotle both work well.
The Doctor’s Kitchen by Dr Rupy Aujla is out now.