How are we all feeling after Christmas and New Years? Are you ready for a whopper of a post with some scrumptious recipes and a simple way to clear your body of holiday junk? I hope you are, because I think two of these three recipes are the best I’ve made in a while, so hold tight!
My yoga instructors are currently in the habit of asking at the beginning of class whether anyone is hungover, and then promise that the class will help clear the body of the toxins it’s holding after any overindulgence. Personally I think a hot sweaty yoga class is about the best thing I can do if I’m feeling the need to detox, but on a full-blown hangover… well I suspect it would end badly.
There are other ways of cleaning out the body, ones that don’t result in getting drenched with sweat. Specifically, I’m talking about clearing the digestive system. Not to get too grotty now, but we all know how good it feels to ‘eliminate’ whatever is built up in your digestive tract after time spent eating refined carbohydrates, fats and oils, and drinking good ol’ dehydrating alcohol.
There are two key things that will aid your digestive system and help get things moving: water and dietary fibre. I know I know, this isn’t news, and everyone knows how important dietary fibre is. But it certainly was news to me to hear that I was actually dehydrated.
I, a woman who drinks 2+ litres of water per day and eats a wholefoods vegan diet, have been struggling with IBS for well over a year (dating back to pre-vegan days). After trying numerous things, both traditional medicine (GP: “Sounds like you’ve got IBS. Here, try Normacol.” …bandaid-fix fail) and alternatives, I saw a therapist who told me I was dehydrated. She instructed me to increase my water intake to at least 4 litres per day, drink 30ml of liquid chlorophyll each day, and give up coffee – which to me is considerably more difficult than taking a break from chocolate, and that surpassed any difficulty I had quitting smoking. Apparently with regular running and yoga, the 2-3 litres I’d been drinking just didn’t cut it. Since doing this, things have improved dramatically. So hydration the first thing I focus on if I’m feeling the need to detox my digestion, and if you’re having mysteriously persistent troubles in that regard or just want to give your body a cleansing, perhaps try increasing your water intake to a good few litres each day.
So now that you know more about me than perhaps you’d hoped for, let’s get onto the second part. Dietary fibre. As the studies showing that dietary fibre helps with digestion involve people eating the fibre as it occurs naturally in food, it’s important not to get duped into believing that a tablespoon of fibre sprinkled on white-bread-and-cheese is going to do much good. Other studies, involving people who increase fibre intake through supplements, show that it doesn’t help much if at all. It’s no wonder people are confused about nutrition, when the media takes findings like these out of context and tells you fibre is essential for good digestion one day, and that it’s useless the next (cue: don’t take nutritional advice from the media). And what are the best sources of naturally occurring dietary fibre? Unrefined plant foods, especially legumes. Animal-based foods don’t contain any fibre.
Are you all ready and set to cleanse your gut with a bucket of water and a bowl of lentils? Might I tempt you with this chickpea tagine instead? It’ll knock your socks off, it’s so good. It’s moreish, filling, substantial, interesting and utterly delicious. It does have a long ingredient list and a fair amount of time in the oven, but it actually requires very little culinary skill or active work time, so don’t be scared off. And with legumes, vegetables and dried fruit, a serve of tagine provides heaps of dietary fibre. We enjoyed a simple salad of leafy greens alongside it, because no meal is complete without greens!
The star ingredient of the tagine is really preserved lemon. It adds an exotic and intriguing depth of flavour, perfectly setting off the spices and sweetness of the apricots. You can buy some from most good delis or fruit’n'veg grocers – I know the fruit and vegetable grocer in Marrickville Metro sells it, in amongst their ethnic specialty foods. I actually made a jar for myself, following this recipe. It’s super simple and a fraction of the price, but you do have to let it sit for four weeks before it’s ready to use. So if you want to make the tagine this week, I’d suggest buying some instead. If you can’t find preserved lemon finely grated lemon rind will work, but the flavour won’t be quite the same.
Moroccan Chickpea Tagine (serves 6-8)
I adapted this recipe from a chicken tagine in my trusty Women’s Weekly bible of cooking. It makes heaps, and the leftovers freeze well. And if you have time to make it a few hours before dinner or even the day before, the flavours get even better after a period of sitting time.
- 2 red onions, sliced thickly
- 4 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped
- 2 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp tumeric
- 1/2 tsp coriander
- 1/4 tsp saffron threads
- 2 chillis, chopped finely (seeds removed if you aren’t into fire)
- 3 cups chicken-style stock
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 2 zucchinis, chopped
- 20 dried apricots, chopped
- 400g tin chickpeas, drained
- 3 cups mixed vegetables (I used a frozen mix of broccoli, cauliflower, beans and carrots)
- 1/3 cup pitted green olives, chopped
- a handful of fresh coriander
- 2 tbsp finely sliced preserved lemon rind
- Saute onion in water until softened.
- Add garlic, spices and chilli and saute until fragrant.
- Add stock, carrots, zucchinis and apricots, lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 140C.
- Add chickpeas, mixed vegetables and olives, cover and cook in oven for 1 hour.
- Stir through coriander and lemon rind. Let sit for another 10 minutes and serve.
After the Christmas celebrations, I’d been feeling lethargic and sluggish and was oversleeping. I felt like I hadn’t had enough iron, because I’d filling up on treats instead eating enough vegetables and legumes. As a vegan it can be difficult to get enough iron if relying on refined foods in your diet. If you eat a variety of unrefined plant food you shouldn’t have any problems, but it is important to stay in touch with your body and recognise when it needs a boost.
What I did to fix it was make this smoothie for breakfast – it got me right back on track. I’ve broken down the nutritional analysis for you, and as you can see, it is quite a nutrient dense meal, with lots of iron and vitamin C to aid absorption.
I like to have my green smoothies like soup – I make it quite thick and eat with a spoon. It means I don’t feel like I’m just having a liquid meal replacement, because with all that’s in it, it really is a full-sized breakfast.
Iron-Rich Green Smoothie
I usually keep peeled bananas in the freezer, both to make banana soft-serve with (I really need to post a recipe for that too), and to put in smoothies. If you don’t have any, adding several ice-cubes in the first stage of blending will help thicken and chill your smoothie. I find that given the long blending time if I don’t put something frozen in it my smoothie can actually become slightly warm, which I don’t particularly like.
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 orange
- 1/4 lemon (optional)
- 1 banana
- 30ml liquid chlorophyll (optional)
- 2 tbsp pumpkin seeds + 1tbsp for garnish
- 3-4 cups dark leafy greens (I used carrot leaves)
- Blend water, fruit, chlorophyll and seeds until smooth.
- Add the greens, a little at a time, and keep blending until super smooth and green. Serve either in a (very large) glass, or in a soup bowl, sprinkled with extra pumpkin seeds if you like.
Calories = 450
Fat = 20g
Protein = 17g
Carbohydrate = 63g
Fibre = 13g
Iron = 10mg
Vitamin C = 140mg
Just one of these bad boys contains over half the iron RDI for women 18-50yrs, and more than the RDI for men.
Finally, I’ve just got to share this recipe with you. I adapted it from The Healthy Chef and was so impressed with the results, that even though it’s now a bit late to be making Christmas pudding, it’s worth trying these. They’re so quick and easy – raw and sugar-free too (other than the brandy and optional garnish). Perhaps don’t decorate them as puddings if you’ve had enough of Christmassy things. They’d make great little truffles, or rolled out flat and cut into energy bars. And if you don’t feel like adding the booze, follow The Healthy Chef recipe and use orange juice instead.
I made them to bring to a family lunch on Christmas Day, because traditional Christmas pudding is one of my favourite things, and I’d been feeling a bit ripped-off by missing out. I didn’t have the time to make a proper veganised pudding, but these hit the spot anyway. They were everyone’s favourite dessert! But even after a few (or many), you won’t feel as ick as you would have after a heavy traditional pudding.
Mini Christmas Puds (makes 35-40, depending on size)
- 225g fresh dates, pitted
- zest from one orange
- 125g dried apricots
- 125g dried fruit mix (sultanas, mixed peel)
- 150g almond meal
- 1 tsp vanilla essence
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp grated fresh nutmeg (or ground dried nutmeg if that’s all you have)
- 1/4 tsp ground ginger
- 2 tbsp brandy
- Optional garnish: dairy free white chocolate (Sweet William brand is available at Woolworths and IGA in the health food aisle) and goji berries or other bright things
- Process all ingredients except for the brandy and garnish.
- Transfer to a bowl and stir through the brandy. This might bend your spoon so make sure it’s sturdy, or at least not one that you mind getting a bit wonky.
- Shape into little puds and refridgerate. I found wetting my hands every so often helped to stop it from sticking.
- Melt white chocolate and drizzle over puds, topping with goji berries or other garnishes. Refridgerate again until the chocolate has hardened and you’re ready to serve them.
Until next time, I hope you have a great start to the year!