New year, new you, right? It’s time to be the best version of yourself, and one of the places that usually starts is in the kitchen. Listen, not to be the annoying friend telling you what you should and shouldn’t eat, but with a little bit of effort (and some help from London chef Nina Parker), you can transform your diet. In the spirit of being "off," (whether it's alcohol, dairy or your couch) chef Parker offers up a healthy, gluten-free (don’t freak out) meal plan that you can feel good about, mostly because it’s absolutely delicious.
"I stumbled upon these delightful wafer-thin pancakes during the Chestnut Festival in Collobrières. They have a delicate, nutty flavour and I particularly love the soft, powdery texture of super-fine chestnut flour. They make a healthy breakfast, plus they’re gluten free. For an indulgent treat, try these crepes with a chocolate, hazelnut and macadamia spread."
150g chestnut flour
60g unrefined caster sugar
1 free-range medium egg, lightly beaten
300ml whole milk
10g unsalted butter
Instructions: Mix the chestnut flour, sugar and egg together in a bowl. Continue stirring and drizzle in the milk until it’s all incorporated – no lumps. Place a non-stick frying pan over a medium-high heat, add a little butter and coat the bottom of the pan. Once it has melted, add a ladle of batter to the pan, quickly swirling it around to create a nice thin crêpe. The crêpes cook faster than normal pancakes – they take just over 1 minute to brown on each side. Before turning it, lift up one side carefully using a fish slice to check that the underneath is golden. They are best eaten immediately, but any leftovers can be refrigerated and eaten the next day. The dream would be to slather these in Panna Tierra chocolate sauce, but I tend to go simple and eat them with some salted butter or dusted with icing sugar. They’re also wonderful with Greek yoghurt, honey and fresh strawberries.
Winter Salad with Charred Courgettes, Pecorino and Toasted Walnuts
"I love the colours here. This is a wonderful salad to take to work with lots of strong flavours. Toasted walnuts and cheese are a classic combination, but adding in the smoky courgette adds a little more depth to this recipe. The dressing is one I often use and it never fails me. I enjoy mixing a few vinegars together, which always makes for more exciting vinaigrettes."
1 courgette (zuchinni), thinly sliced on a mandolin to 2mm thick
60g Pecorino cheese, roughly chopped into pieces
2 red chicory, torn
60g rocket (arugula)
30g mixed green leaves
70g toasted walnuts, roughly chopped
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Zest and juice of half a lemon
1 tsp maple syrup
1/4 tsp garlic, crushed to a paste
Sea salt and black pepper
Instructions: In a small bowl mix together all the ingredients for the dressing and taste to check for seasoning, adding in more salt or pepper if required. Heat up a griddle pan and, once hot, add a few slices of thinly sliced courgette to char for a 1 minute until the sides show black smokey lines. Once you have finished charring all of the courgette pieces, place them in a large mixing bowl along with all the other ingredients. Toss everything gently together pouring the dressing over. Serve straight away.
Sea Bream en Papillote with Garlic Brussels Sprouts and Kale
For the Papillote
2 sea bream fillets
4 slices of lemon, plus 1/2 a lemon
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove
For the greens
200g Brussels sprouts, trimmed and outer leaves removed
2 handfuls of kale
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, diced
2 tbsp butter
Sea salt and black pepper
Instructions: Preheat the oven to 200 degrees and set a medium saucepan to the boil with water and lots of salt. Tear off two large pieces of baking parchment and each should be the width of 4 hands. To make the papillote get one of the baking sheets and fold it in half to meet the other side and then take the fold at the top of the paper two centimetres inwards to create a neat fold. Press down a few times with your hands to make sure the edge is moulded down and then fold it two centimetres inwards again. Press this next fold down firmly and it should stay in a neat crease. Now do the same with the bottom of the baking paper and you should be left with a package with an opening in the middle on either the right or left side – this is where you will place the fish. Now do the same with the second piece of baking paper so that you are left with two neat papillote.
Put the two fillets on a chopping board and drizzle them with olive oil so they are nicely coated. Crush the garlic clove in two, rubbing each half over the fillets. Season with salt, pepper, lemon juice and sit two lemon slices on top of each fish. Carefully put each fillet inside the papillote skin-side down, along with the crushed garlic, and squeeze lemon juice over each fillet. Wash and dry hands firmly before folding over the leftover opening of the papillote twice and make sure each is sealed tightly. You can place a paperclip over the opening if you are worried, but it should be fine. Put the parcels onto a baking tray and into the hot oven for eight minutes until the package has puffed up and then remove from the oven. You can carefully check one of the fillets to see that the flesh is flaking away, but be aware that the stream coming out will be very hot. You can either serve them on plates and open them at the table or you can empty all the contents of the parcel onto a plate.
While the fish is cooking add the sprouts to the now boiling salted water for three and a half minutes and then add the kale for another 30 seconds before draining both. Set a frying pan on a medium-to-high heat and add the olive oil and butter to cook. Then add the greens into the hot pan for a minute followed by the diced garlic. Season generously with salt and pepper and fry for about two to three minutes. Serve straight away with the fish.
Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies
"In France this Easter I made these chocolate peanut butter cookies four times just to get them right because I was looking for an extra peanut-y flavour. I think I have got it right here. These bad boys are nutty, chocolate-y and perfect with a glass of milk."
Makes 12 biscuits
90g unrefined caster sugar
100g almond flour 100g spelt flour
120g cold butter, cut into cubes
140g good quality peanut butter
100g dark chocolate, 70 per cent cocoa roughly chopped
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp salted peanuts, roughly chopped
1 medium free-range egg, lightly beaten
Instructions: In a bowl mix together the sugar, almond flour, spelt flour, beaten egg, butter and peanut butter until combined, then add the dark chocolate, vanilla extract and chopped peanuts. Bring the dough together with your hand, wrap them in cling film and and chill for an hour in the fridge. Now line two trays with baking parchment and divide dough into 12 equal balls and shape into chunky 2-2.5 centimetre circles. Bake in a preheated 170-degree oven for 15 minutes or until lightly browned on top.