Thursday, 29 March 2012

How to make dieting fun!

I'm a massive fan of healthy food. It's great to know that every meal you're eating is providing your body with the stuff it needs. I quite often find myself with strange cravings for particular foods like avocados or steak... it's usually because my body's low on certain nutrients that those foods contain.

Dark leafy vegetables like spinach, broccoli, watercress and kale are particularly nutritious. They're full of vitamins- everything from antioxident vitamin C, to vitamin K which helps bones and brain activity; as well as iron (which is vital for women and helps keep energy levels up); copper (which your body needs in order to absorb iron); calcium (for your bones); potassium (which is needed for healthy blood, and also helps balance sodium levels); magnesium; phosphorus and manganese. Watercress is an especially low-calorie and low fat source of these vitamins and minerals.

The trouble with many of these kinds of super-healty foods, though, is that they taste like earth and don't fill you up! I honestly believe that if you're on a diet, the most important thing is to really enjoy the food you're eating. You're not going to get as much of it as usual, so when you do eat, make the most of it! Take time to find recipes you really want to try, spend money on your food (well, since you're not buying as much, you can get away with spending more on what you do buy!) Diet food shouldn't be punishment. If you're giving up the foods you love, you HAVE to replace them with other ones that are as exciting and tasty as possible, or you'll end up having a bad relationship with what you're eating and then you'll be more likely to slip.

I've been eating a lot of soups for my lunches, because I like to try a new recipe out every few days and there are endless possibilities. I wanted to make a watercress soup, but I was pretty disappointed with the result. Hmmm, healthy and tastless! Where's the fun in that?

So here is my attempt at making a more exciting watercress soup. I think it's still a work in progress, but at least it looks pretty, and the rocket adds a peppery twang to what's otherwise quite a bland and earthy flavour. Plus I'll throw in my spelt bread recipe for free!

Watercress and Rocket Soup with Homemade Spelt Bread Rolls

Makes 12 rolls
400g wholemeal bread flour
300g strong white bread flour
300g spelt flour
1 1/2 packets quick yeast
1 tblsp honey
1 tsp salt
approx 1/2 pint tepid water
1 egg, beaten
4tblsp toasted sesame seeds

1. On a clean surface, pile up the flours, salt and yeast. Make a well in the centre.
2. Mix the honey into the water and pour into the well in the flour gradually, mixing in with your fingers until all the flour is combined.
3. Keep on mixing with your fingers until you've got a dough. You want this dough to be really quite sticky, so if you need to add more water, do. Then knead the dough for approx 10mins. You'll know when it's ready because the consistency will change and it will become elastic and smooth.
4. Rub some oil around the bottom and sides of a large bowl and place the dough in it. Cover with a damp tea towel and put in a warm place for about 1hour, until it's doubled in size.
5. Knock back the dough (slowly punch your hand into the middle of the dough to let the air out, and then gently knead it back into a ball again) then cut it into 12 pieces
6. Shape these into rounds (or whatever shape you want your rolls to be) and place them on lined baking trays, leaving a good 2 inches between each one. Brush with a little egg and sprinkle on a generous amount of sesame seeds.
7. Place back into the warm for a further 30mins-1 hour, until doubled in size again.
8. Put into a preheated oven at 200 C for approx 15mins. You can tell they're cooked by turning them upside down and knocking them with a finger. If they make a hollow sound, they're done.

Serves 4
1 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1kg potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 litre hot vegetable stock
150g watercress
50g rocket
salt and lots of black pepper
To serve:
a little low fat yoghurt
toasted pumpkin seeds/sesame seeds/saffron strands

1. Heat a little oil in a large pan and fry the onions and potatoes for approx 5 mins until softened but not coloured.
2. Add the stock and the garlic and cook for a further 20mins, until the potatoes are starting to break up.
3. Add the watercress and remove from the heat.
4. Pour the soup mixture into a blender and blend until smooth.
5. Chop the rocket up really small, like you would with herbs, and stir into the blended soup, adding some salt and a fair amount of black pepper
6. Serve with a hot toasted bread roll. Swirl a little yoghurt into the centre of the bowl and sprinkle on some seeds or maybe even some saffron strands if you're feeling flash!

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