It is inevitable that our eating habits change with the new year. I couldn’t keep up with the amount of cheese, booze, sandwiches and grilled meats the holiday season demands. Despite the clichés, these cool January days are an ideal time to establish new habits and shift your focus toward perhaps eating a little more mindfully.
You don’t need to break the juicer or mixer and start boiling the beans. My version of a lighter winter diet certainly doesn’t come from a place of scarcity. Instead, I want to share recipes that are plant-based, don’t skimp on fiery flavors, and should instead be a colorful and welcome path to a new year of food.
First, grill veggie fajitas with homemade tortillas, hot sauce, and pickled cabbage. It is an ideal dinner to share with the whole family, rich in spices and sweetness from caramelized roasted vegetables. While the vegetables are roasting in the oven, you can easily make the other items on the plate: homemade tortillas, a fresh tomato sauce, and a quick pickle of the best winter cabbage. If you choose to skip the homemade tortillas, at least light the ones from a plastic package over a hot flame to get the most out of them.
Next, a roasted cauliflower curry. This is a really solid vegetable curry that is easy to make. The great tip to roast the cauliflower first is from Susan Jane White’s wonderful book. Smart batchand adds even more flavor. It may seem like an extensive ingredient list, but many of the ingredients are kitchen staples that you may have hidden in your spice cabinet. The instant color and soft floral fragrance you get from just a couple of strands of saffron make the rice in this recipe particularly eye-catching alongside the strong red onion and lots of fresh herbs.
Finally, a soup that is also a stew, rich in the best vegetables of the season and some sausage dumplings with fennel seeds. It’s hearty comfort food – the kind of dish you dream of after a cold winter outside.s. Serve with toasted sourdough slices slathered with garlic and drizzled generously with your best extra virgin olive oil for a simple lunch or dinner.
Grilled Vegetable Fajitas with Homemade Tortillas, Hot Sauce and Pickled Cabbage
Time: 1 hour 30 minutes Servings: 4-6
6 medium beets, peeled and cut into small wedges
6 carrots, quartered lengthwise
3 large red onions, peeled and cut into wedges
2 tablespoons chipotle chili paste
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3-4 tablespoons of olive oil
A handful of chopped fresh coriander
150 g of grated cheddar cheese
75g crispy store bought fried onions
100ml sour cream (optional)
For the tortillas:
500 g of all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoon fine salt
160ml hot water
60 ml light olive or vegetable oil
For the sauce:
300 g cherry tomatoes
1 clove of garlic finely minced
A few pinches of Mexican hot sauce
½ small red onion, finely chopped
Juice of one lime
3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
For the cabbage:
½ green pointed cabbage, finely grated
50 ml distilled malt vinegar
2 tablespoons caster sugar
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1. Heat the oven to 200C / 400F. Toss the vegetables in a large roasting pan with the chipotle paste, cumin seeds, and oregano. Drizzle with oil and season well. Mix again and broil for 45-50 minutes, turning occasionally.
2. To make the tortilla dough, put the flour and salt in a large bowl. Then add the hot water and oil and mix until you get a hairy dough with your hands. Place on a work surface and quickly knead for 5 minutes until smooth. Return to a clean but lightly greased container, cover, and let sit for 30 minutes.
3. Finely chop the cherry tomatoes and mix with the rest of the sauce ingredients. Season to taste and reserve.
4. Put the shredded cabbage in a bowl. Heat the vinegar and sugar with the coriander seeds and water until the sugar dissolves, then pour over the cabbage and set aside.
5. Divide the dough into 12 uniform-sized pieces and shape into balls. On a lightly floured surface, roll out each to about 20cm. Heat a large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. Cook each tortilla for 1-2 minutes on each side so they are cooked through and start to get browned spots. Keep warm in foil until ready to serve.
6. Toss vegetables with cilantro and place in a hot serving bowl. Bring to the table with the crispy onions, sour cream, salsa, and tortillas, and serve.
Roasted Cauliflower Curry with Saffron Rice
Cook time: 35 minutes Servings: 4
For the roasted cauliflower:
1 head of cauliflower, chopped
2 tablespoons curry powder
2 tablespoons coconut oil
For the curry sauce:
1 tablespoon of coconut oil
2 finely chopped onions
4 garlic cloves, crushed
5 cm piece ginger, finely grated
1 green chilli finely chopped
1 tablespoon coriander seeds, crushed
2 teaspoons turmeric
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 400 ml can of coconut milk
750ml of vegetable broth
250g frozen peas
150g baby spinach
For the saffron rice:
1 tablespoon of sunflower oil
1 small onion finely chopped
2 teaspoons of sea salt
250g basmati rice
1 pinch of saffron leaves
500ml of vegetable broth
Small handful of coriander
Handful of mint leaves
Pickled red onion
1. Preheat the oven to 200C / 400F.
2. Combine cauliflower with coconut oil and curry powder in a roasting pan.
3. Arrange in a single layer and roast for 30 minutes until golden brown and crisp.
4. While the cauliflower is roasting, prepare the curry sauce. Heat the coconut oil in a large skillet over low heat. Add the onions and let them sweat in the pan until they soften. Add the garlic, ginger, chilli, coriander seeds, and spices. Pour in the coconut milk and broth, until it boils. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Season to taste.
5. Toss the peas and spinach together with the roasted cauliflower. Cook over low heat until the peas have cooked through and the spinach is soft.
6. For the saffron rice, place a pot over medium-high heat, add the sunflower oil and sauté the onion for 6-8 minutes until tender.
7. Add the rice to the skillet and stir.
8. Top with the hot broth and add the saffron and salt. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook for 10 minutes or until the liquid is completely absorbed. Remove from heat, when ready to serve, and fluff with a fork.
9. To serve, place the rice in a wide bowl, add the curry, and top with fresh herbs and pickled red onions.
Winter Vegetable and Meatball Stew
Time: 40 minutes Servings: 4
6 good quality sausages
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, roughly ground
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 small leeks, sliced
3 sticks of celery, sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
½ celery, peeled and diced
1l fresh chicken broth
200g kale, torn
80 g of barley paste
Good unsalted butter
100 g fresh breadcrumbs
2 g grated Parmesan cheese
400g canned cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1. Squeeze the sausage meat from the boxes into a bowl. Add the fennel seeds and squeeze to mix. Then shape 16 small balls.
2. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Brown the meatballs all over, then set aside.
3. In a large saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of oil and sauté the onion, leek, and celery for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and celery and sauté for a few more minutes. Then add 800ml of the broth. Simmer for 15 minutes and add the cavolo nero, orzo and meatballs and the remaining broth to the soup. Cook over low heat for 10 more minutes.
4. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a pan with the butter and fry the breadcrumbs over low heat for 5-10 minutes until golden brown. Spread out on a plate to cool, then toss with the Parmesan.
5. Add the cannellini beans to the soup and cook for another minute or two. Then serve with some of the cheese crumbs.