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January, I Can Love You

No one likes January. If they did, things like "Veganuary" and "Dry January" wouldn't exist. This fascination with being "better" than the year before... what's that about? We can only be ourselves. I haven't made new year's resolutions for years because I know, two weeks in, I'll just give up. Or the first cold I get, or the first cripplingly busy day at work... We make unrealistic expectations of ourselves. We can only stick to our "resolutions" if something depends on the change. And more often than not, it doesn't.

We all want to feel better about ourselves, whether it's body image, career, diet, home decor.... the list goes on. I won't lie, I'd love to be one of those people who can get full off a kale smoothie and have glowing skin all the time, but I'm not. I like carbs, I like fried food, I LOVE snacks - I'm particularly partial to a Birmingham based brand of chocolate, but I also know when enough is enough. I do crave vegetables, and I crave them relatively often. But when I cook, I use as much olive oil as I want - none of this fry light spray stuff.

I don't understand why people are afraid of fats. Yes, too much is bad for you, but so is too much protein, too many carbohydrates, too much sugar... but a little of all of them together makes a balanced diet. So if you have made a new year's resolution that you can't stick to, whether it's food related or not, don't beat yourself up for not sticking to it. You haven't failed, you just need to find a more realistic way to achieve whatever goal you want. The resolution, in my experience, is a means to get to your goal. Instead of a new year's resolution, set a goal for the year, or a specific point in the year, and figure out the best way for you to reach that goal.

I think part of the reason we feel we "must be better" is because December is such an indulgent month, we feel like we have to make up for it in January by going all out. Yes, by all means, stop eating mince pies for breakfast and take the bucket of mini chocolates off the kitchen counter/coffee table/dining table. But eat a balanced diet. And your wallet will thank you for eating seasonally too. In Britain, you will be glad to hear that means root vegetables. Carrots come at me!

I'm about to give you a recipe for soup - how very January of me. But it's not just any soup. It's healthy, it's balanced, it's suitable for eating all year round, it's delicious and it's the best thing to eat when you feel under the weather, perfect for this time of year.

Shorabat A'adas (Arabic Lentil Soup)

  • 1 large white onion, diced

  • 4-5 cloves of garlic, minced

  • 5 large carrots, peeled and diced

  • 300g red lentils

  • 1 tbsp ground coriander

  • 2 tbsp ground cumin

  • 2 tsp turmeric

  • 500ml chicken or vegetable stock

  • Salt and pepper to taste

In a large saucepan, heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and add the onion and garlic. Fry off until the onions are translucent and the garlic is cooked. Stir often so that nothing goes brown or the soup will taste bitter.

Add the carrots and cook them for about 2 minutes. They won't soften but the onion and garlic will work some flavour magic. Add the spices and some salt and mix well.

Stir in the lentils and make sure they are coated in the spices you've just added. Then add the stock. Stir everything together and simmer until the carrots are soft. I have given 500ml of stock as a guide. This might not be the thickness of your choice so if you would like it thinner, add some more stock or water to the pot. The more liquid thats in it, the easer it will be to blitz later. Remember after it's been sitting, it will continue to thicken (just don't make it so thin that it's the consistency of water).

When the carrots are soft, taste for seasoning. Add the desired amount of salt and pepper and take the pot off the heat. Blitz the soup using a stick blender - or if you like it chunky, leave it as it is.

At this stage the decision is yours, add a bunch of chopped coriander through the soup if you like or sprinkle some parsley over the top of each serving. Serve with croutons of your choice, mine were cornbread. Delish!


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