Easy, healthy dinner ideas to kick off 2017

January is usually synonymous with juice cleanses and detoxes, but honestly why do it to ourselves?  If there's one thing that spending lots of time in Italy has taught me, it's that delicious shouldn't mean unhealthy. As long as you're using quality ingredients, the key to staying on a healthy track is more about putting great flavour combinations together than reaching for the juicer! From a super speedy frittata to a show stopping seafood pasta, here are a few of my favourite weekday recipes that are healthy, simple to put together and guaranteed to leave you feeling satisfied. 


Courgette and basil frittata with a side of kale crisps

If you're eye rolling at the mention of kale crips, don't knock 'em til you've tried them. They are super easy to make, cheap and so delicious. You can get a quick recipe for them here

This River Cafe Cookbook frittata recipe (I have all of their books, they are AMAZING) 'officially' serves six but as a main, in my greedy household, I'd say it's more like three or four.

 
 

For the frittata you'll need:

Ingredients

  • 8 organic eggs 
  • 4 small or 3 medium courgettes
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
  • 1 small bunch of fresh basil, leaves picked from the stalks and roughly chopped
  • Maldon salt ('cause it really is the best) and freshly ground black pepper
  • 50g Parmesan grated
  • Preheat oven to 200 degrees

Trim the courgette, then cut thinly at an angle. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in an ovenproof frying pan. Add the garlic, followed by the courgette slices. When brown on all sides, add most of the basil and salt and pepper to taste. The courgette should be quite dry; if there is any oil remaining, drain through a sieve and reserve.

Break the eggs into a bowl and beat lightly. Add the courgette and the garlic, reserving a tablespoon for the end. Season with salt and pepper. Heat any reserved olive oil (add extra if needed) in the ovenproof frying pan, tilting the pan to coat all sides. Add the egg mixture and lower the heat. Cook over a low heat, loosening the eggs at the sides from time to time, until just set - it should be quite runny. Before placing into the hot oven, spread the rest of the courgette on top. After a minute or a little less, remove from the oven and sprinkle with the Parmesan and remaining basil. Loosen the frittata from the pan with a long spatula and put on to a warm plate. 

Serve it with a side of kale crisps, mixed salad and a slice of crusty bread for a delicious, healthy dinner.

 


Spiced butternut squash and coconut milk soup

 
 

You can't beat soups for a mid-week dinner. They're quick to prepare, and you can keep mess to a minimum since it all goes in one saucepan! This one from BBC Good Food tastes as good as it looks. I give it my own little twist by adding wilted spinach or cavollo nero, and some toasted seeds (pumpkin seeds work best) take it to a whole new level.

If greens aren't your thing, some good portobello mushrooms sliced and fried in a little olive oil also make a delicious topping.

Ingredients

  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and diced
  • 200g carrot, diced
  • 1 tbsp curry powder containing turmeric
  • 100g red lentils
  • 700ml vegetable stock
  • 1 can/box of coconut milk

Heat the oil in a large saucepan, add the squash and carrots, sizzle for 1 minute, then stir in the curry powder and cook for 1 minute more. Tip in the lentils, the vegetable stock and coconut milk and give everything a good stir. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for 15-18 minutes until everything is tender.

Using a hand blender or in a food processor, blitz until as smooth as you like. Pour into your favourite bowl and enjoy,

I like to serve mine topped with wilted spinach or cavollo nero mixed with garlic and good extra virgin olive oil and a mix of toasted seeds. 

 


Spaghetti allo scoglio in bianco

 

This is one of my absolute favourite pasta dishes; it's the first thing I order when we visit Italy in the summer time. Thanks to the brilliant River Cafe cook books (again, they are AMAZING), I finally braved recreating it at home a couple of years ago and was amazed at how easy it was to prepare, and now it's a regular fixture. Often when we spot seafood recipes we immediately assume it's going to be a complex dish, but that couldn't be further from the truth. Seafood is usually so quick to prepare. It's all about keeping it simple. 

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 3kgs mussels
  • 100ml olive oil
  • 150ml of white wine
  • 3 garlic cloves peeled and sliced
  • 3 small dried chillies, crumbled
  • 250g of spaghetti/linguine
  • 3 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley (quite frankly the more flat parsley the better)
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Wash the mussels in a sink of cold water, and change the water until it appears clear.

Heat one third of the olive oil in a large saucepan with a lid. Add half the wine, 1 garlic clove and 1 chilli. Add half the mussels, cover with a lid, and cook on a high heat until they open, shaking the pan constantly. When the shells are open, remove the mussels to a large bowl, with their juices. Repeat with the remainder of the mussels. 

When all the mussels have been cooked, chop the remaining garlic and chilli and fry until light brown in the remaining oil (always careful not to burn the garlic). Add the mussels and the juices and remove immediately. 

Cook the spaghetti or linguine in a generous amount of boiling water, then drain thoroughly. Place the pasta in the mussel pan, then mussels well to coat the pasta in the mussel juices. Add the chopped parsley and black pepper. 

Enjoy with a glass of crisp white wine and lovely crusty white bread to transform this simple supper into a bit of showstopper.


Deliciously Ella's Chickpea, quinoa and turmeric curry

 

This is such a great recipe. It's a delicious, quick and easy one pot wonder and a real crowd pleaser!

Ingredients

  • 500g of potatoes, halved
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 3 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp coriander 
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes or powder
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 400g can of coconut milk (I recommend Grace - I've tried lots but this one always comes out on top!)
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 180g quinoa
  • 400g can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 150g spinach
  • 400g chopped tomatoes
  • salt and pepper 

 

Place the potatoes in a pan of cold water and bring to the boil, then let them cook for about 25 minutes, until you can easily stick a knife through them. Drain them well.

Place the potatoes in a large pan and add the garlic, turmeric, coriander, chilli, ginger, coconut milk, tomato purée and tomatoes. Bring to the boil, season with salt and pepper, then add the quinoa with a mug of just-boiled water (300ml).

Reduce the heat to a simmer, place the lid on and allow to cook. Over the next 30 minutes, stir every 5 minutes or so to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom. (This is quite a long cooking time, but this is how long quinoa takes to cook in all these ingredients, rather than just in water.) Halfway through cooking, add the chickpeas. When there are just 5 minutes left, add the spinach and stir it in until it wilts. Once the quinoa has cooked and is fluffy, not crunchy, it’s ready.

You can find Deliciously Ella's recipe book here 

For comfort food at its very best, I suggest serving with a wholemeal chabati, some steamed mangetout and a big dollop of natural yoghurt.