There are very few pleasures equal to sitting down at a table with all the family and eating a proper roast chicken dinner. I love it. I cheated last week, and we had just chicken breasts but with stuffing and gravy. It was almost… but not absolutely…. as good.
My family of three men and two women would happily sit down to a meat-based meal every night. I blame their Irish grandparents, or perhaps the Isle of Man influence. Definitely meat and two veg are the order of the day most of the time.
And during the winter months, slow cooked meat comes into its own. We will happily eat slow-cooked pork in tortillas, with rice, with potato mash… or a thick beef stew where the juices have been cooked into the meat, leaving it so soft it melts as you press down on it with a fork. Mince simmered for hours with red wine, bacon and italian herbs to make a ragu that goes very nicely, thank you, with spaghetti or tucked al forno in a lasagne. This is the month I get my slow cooker out and keep the kitchen filled with the fragrances of winter.
Yet I find myself bemoaning the culinary rut I have got myself into. While recognising the power of nostalgic comfort food (and, indeed, all comfort food should be nostalgic, for part of that support it gives us is the memories it arouses) I want also to use the food as art, to bring in the bright colours of spices and vegetables as a way of cheering up my life.
I want also to use food as a way of improving our lives. The nutrients that plants give us are a valuable way of fighting disease and illness. This winter, therefore, I am trying to include a couple of new recipes each week, mostly plant based, and aimed at introducing as wide a variety of colours and flavours as possible to our diets. This is still a work in progress, but at the moment I’ve collected a few recipes to try out with the aim of keeping them in the menu plans permanently.
Brazilian Fish Stew: I found my recipe on Food to Glow, a website I have bookmarked for long, slow perusal at a later date. I like how it uses frozen fish, and has such a variety of colourful vegetables it must be good for me!
Cauliflower Salad: From Scandinavian kitchen. I’m going to serve this alongside fresh spaghetti and a couple of german sausages, proving that hygge truly is an international pursuit.
Provencal Salmon Traybake: From Tom Kerridge’s new book. I have the TV programme taped to watch this weekend, and I’m hoping for plenty of inspiration. It promises low calorie and tasty food, so I’m looking forward to reading the book this weekend and using it to plan some of my meals for January.
Pan-Seared Butternut Squash: I love butternut squash soup, but rarely cook it as a side dish. This recipe caught my eye as a simple, but effective, way to add extra flavour. I’ll serve it with a chicken breast and a pile of pesto spaghetti for those who like it…
I never admit my size or weight to anyone, but suffice to say I am sufficiently overweight for the words morbid and obese to appear on any medical records. I haven’t tried losing weight for a few years, being happy with being me, but a couple of incidents at the end of last year have made me think that now needs to be the time. I also want to live a hyggely life, with treats and comfort. I think I have a tricky balancing act ahead, and a real chance to practice what I preach: that hygge is not all hot chocolate and thick slices of cake, but a lesson in moderation, atmosphere and enjoying life as it is now, with long walks and dancing in between the home-cooked stews and open sandwiches. Wish me luck: by the end I really may have had to find the world’s best Hygge Diet.
At the moment my top three guides, sat by my bed and on my desk, are:
Tom Kerridge’s Lose Weight for Good book. After all, if he can do it, and work with food all day, then it must be possible. And I always trust someone who has been there and done it, rather than never had the full-fat experience.
Lisa Riley’s Honesty Diet. Again, wise words from a woman who has lost 12 stone. Lisa Riley is a lovely person as well, one of those celebrities who actually answers tweets!
Rangan Chatterjee’s Four Pillar Plan: Because weight loss without health is useless.
My plan for tonight is to sit and read all of these several times before plotting a meal plan for January that will be full of sunshine vitamins. I’ll share my progress (in this as in most things) on Facebook and Instagram #hibernate2018 #hyggediet and check in with The Hygge Nook. I’m also working on Book number 4, 52 Weeks to Happy, so the first part of the year will be happily full of life-affirming work and play.
My other books have more ideas that are good for hibernating with, and are all available from Amazon. 50 Ways to Hygge the British Way is available in Paperback and Kindle version and so is How to Hygge Your Summer, again in Paperback and Kindle form, from Amazon.
If you purchase anything through the links on this page, I get a couple of pence extra per copy, and if you’ve already read my books and enjoyed them, please leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads.
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