Too often in fitness and in food, there is a message from media, friends, family, personal trainers, supermarkets and pretty much everyone, that you need to follow a specific plan.
Usually, a specific plan that reaps plenty of money and devotion to a brand or individual. Drink our shakes! Purchase our appliances! Follow our instagram! And so forth.
What if you really considered what foods you like, what makes you feel good, what enables you to feel energetic enough to do what you have to do and what do you have the time and the enthusiasm to prepare?
I do have some paleo cookbooks and some raw food and vegan ones. I am not paleo, raw foodist or vegan. I think they have some fabulous recipes and I absolutely respect their ethos. I just know that I find I need animal based protein to feel truly satiated and energised.
I want to share some of the awesome books that are giving me recipe and happy, healthy food love at the moment. They are beautiful to look at and the recipes are not complex. They are not pushing a regimen on you - there's no self righteous eat THIS and NOT THAT! There's just a genuine celebration of flavour, fresh food and great combinations. Divided up between salads, main meals, sweet options and side dishes. Here's the lowdown on Real Delicious
and Deliciously Ella
Real Delicious by Chrissy Freer (Murdoch Books
) is fabulous. The images are gorgeous - but don't be fooled by all the colour and prettiness - the recipes are simple and really good for both singles, small groups of friends and also feeding the whole family. Here are two of my must-try recipes: Japanese Pancakes and Fish and Sweet Potato
Japanese pancakes with mushrooms and chicken
Filled with shredded vegetables, minced lean chicken and protein-packed eggs, this version of a Japanese pancake makes a nutritious and filling lunch or light dinner. In Japan it’s traditionally served with mayonnaise, but I prefer to skip this in favour of a little sweet soy sauce and some salad leaves.
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 35 minutes
75 g (23/4 oz/1/2 cup) wholemeal spelt flour or plain (all-purpose) flour
11/2 tablespoons peanut or macadamia oil
200 g (7 oz) minced (ground) chicken or pork
150 g (51/2 oz) mushrooms, finely chopped
2 teaspoons finely grated ginger
1 garlic clove, crushed
130 g (41/2 oz/13/4 cups) shredded savoy cabbage
1 large carrot, coarsely grated
Sweet soy sauce, for drizzling
2 teaspoons sesame seeds, lightly toasted
Sliced spring onions (scallions), to serve
Baby kale leaves, to serve
Whisk together the flour, eggs and 80 ml (21/2 fl oz/1/3 cup) cold water until smooth. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Heat 2 teaspoons of the oil in a large non-stick frying pan. Add the chicken and cook, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, for 5 minutes or until browned. Add the mushrooms, ginger and garlic and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes or until golden. Leave to cool completely.
Stir the chicken mixture, cabbage and carrot into the egg batter.
Heat half the remaining oil in a large non-stick frying pan over medium–high heat. Ladle 1/2 cup of batter per pancake into the pan and spread out to 1 cm (1/2 inch) thick. Cook for 3 minutes each side or until golden. Transfer to a plate and keep warm while you cook the rest, adding a little more oil when necessary.
Serve the pancakes drizzled with a little sweet soy sauce and scattered with the sesame seeds, spring onions and kale leaves.
Fish and sweet potato cakes with dill dressing
These fish cakes are made with mashed sweet potato instead of regular potato, and they’re coated in wholegrain oats instead of breadcrumbs. I love using sweet potato because it doesn’t need any butter or salt to taste great. It has a lower GI than regular potato and it’s packed with the powerful antioxidant beta-carotene, which has been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease.
Preparation time: 20 minutes, plus 30 minutes chilling
Cooking time: 30 minutes
400 g (14 oz) orange sweet potato, cut into 3 cm (11/4 inch) dice
400 g (14 oz) firm white fish fillets
4 spring onions (scallions), finely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
2 tablespoons chopped dill
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 long red chilli, seeded and finely chopped
100 g (31/2 oz/1 cup) rolled (porridge) oats
1 tablespoon olive or macadamia oil
Baby English spinach leaves, to serve
1 tablespoon chopped dill
1 tablespoon salted baby capers, rinsed and chopped
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
Pinch of caster (superfine) sugar
Steam the sweet potato in a steamer over simmering water for 12 minutes or until tender. Drain, mash roughly with a fork and cool.
Steam the fish in a steamer over simmering water for 6–8 minutes or until just cooked through. Set aside to cool, then flake with a fork.
Combine the sweet potato, fish, spring onion, herbs, lemon zest and chilli in a large bowl. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Form the mixture into eight 2 cm (3/4 inch) thick patties.
Place the oats on a large plate. Press each fish cake into the oats to coat both sides. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes to firm.
Combine all the ingredients for the dill dressing.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium–high heat and cook the fish cakes for 2–3 minutes each side or until golden brown, adding a little extra oil if necessary. Serve with spinach leaves and dill dressing.
Young children love these fish cakes, but you might need to leave out the chilli.
Deliciously Ella Every Day
(Hachette) is exactly what it promises: simple recipes from wholefoods that are totally delicious. Some of you have followed Ella's blog and she has a massive social media following. You don't need to be familiar or a fan to find this recipe book totally reliable and enjoyable though. In fact, I am blissfully new to Ella and her wholefood approach. I love it though and want to share some of my fave recipes with you. Enjoy!
Such a delicious dish, I think it may end up being a favourite recipe for lots of you... it’s certainly very popular in my house! It’s inspired by a recipe that a friend sent to me; I fell in love with it and adapted it over time to create this version. The sauce is definitely my favourite part, as it’s so incredibly rich with the most amazing array of flavours.
For the noodles
2 large courgettes
2 large carrots
100g buckwheat noodles
1 red pepper, cut into very thin strips
handful of sesame seeds
30g cashew nuts
10g fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
For the sauce
8 tablespoons olive oil
15g bunch of fresh coriander
3 tablespoons almond butter
2 tablespoons tahini
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon tamari
juice of 1 lemon
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Peel the courgettes, then use a vegetable peeler to peel the flesh into strips around the core. I normally discard the seedy centres, as they’re hard to peel. Do the same with the carrots.
Cook the noodles according to the packet instructions.
Meanwhile, make the sauce. Simply place everything into a blender or food processer with 9 tablespoons of water and whizz until smooth.
Once the noodles have cooked, drain them and let them cool for a few minutes.
Place the noodles, carrots, courgettes, pepper, sesame seeds and cashews in a large bowl and pour over the dressing. Mix everything together, then sprinkle the mint on top.
Makes 2 large pizza crusts / Serves 4–6
4 tablespoons chia seeds
2 cauliflowers (about 1kg), roughly chopped
200g Apple Purée (page 40)
300g brown rice or buckwheat
juice of 2 lemons
2 tablespoons tamari
4 teaspoons dried oregano
4 teaspoons dried basil
For the toppings, I like:
fresh basil leaves
handful of rocket
salt and pepper
Place the chia seeds in a bowl with 280ml of water. Leave for 10–15 minutes, until the chia has formed a gel.
Preheat the oven to 200°C (fan 180°C).
Place the cauliflower in a food processor and blend it until a flour-like substance forms; this should take about a minute (you may need to do this in 2 batches). Place in a nut milk bag (page 53) and knead out excess water: it may take a few minutes but it’s a really important step, so please don’t skip it!
Add the cauliflower to a mixing bowl with the chia and apple purée and stir until blended. Mix in the flour, lemon juice, tamari, salt and dried herbs. Slowly pour in 150ml of ice-cold water, using your hands to mix it to a sticky dough. Divide the dough into 2 pieces.
Line 2 baking trays with baking parchment and spread each piece of dough out over it, to form a pizza base. Bake the crusts for 20–30 minutes.
Once they are firm and slightly crispy, add the tomato purée and your toppings (except any basil or rocket), then cook for another 5–10 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, the leaves, if using, and a drizzle of olive oil, then slice and serve!
I know it sounds strange to tell you to take the water out of the cauliflower and then add more water to the mix, but – trust me – it’s vital for the recipe to work, as it means you get exactly the right amount of liquid needed for the crust to bake properly.
These recipes are from Deliciously Ella Every Day by Ella Woodward, published by Hachette Australia RRP $29.99.