I firmly believe we are what we eat. In some of my previous columns on Victoria Health, I’ve shared my Stay-Slim Secrets and other thoughts on Food, but this month I’m letting you have a sneak peek inside my kitchen, along with some of my all-time favourite recipes, which I believe are packed with nourishment and goodness. As a result, they feed every cell in your body – not just your complexion…
LULU’S GREEN SOUP
This green soup is good for using up vegetables that you’ve got in the fridge, so there’s no waste. My son Jordan is a cook (he has a fabulous restaurant in Islington called Trullo, where believe it or not it’s even hard for me to get a table!), and he makes up bags of chicken stock to use as a base for this. Marigold Bouillon powder is also a great standby (Delia Smith swears by it…!)
Basically, you add to the soup whatever is to hand: cabbage, cauliflower, spring onions, courgettes, peas, even lettuce – so long as it’s green. Add these to the stock, boil until the vegetables are soft, and season to taste (lots of black pepper is FABULOUS!) You can then whizz it through the blender. If you prefer bigger chunks of vegetables, chop them to your preferred size before you put them into the stock. And I always add a big handful of chopped herbs on top.
Invest in some small flasks for taking food-to-go with you. If you’ve got some hot, healthy soup in a flask, it helps you resist the endless fast-food options – which are almost invariably high in fat and loaded with sugar.
THE RIVER CAFÉ’S BRAISED SWISS CHARD WITH CHILLI AND GARLIC
A really nourishing vegetarian dish – either as a side dish, or a main course with rice…
For 6 (as a side)
500 g Swiss chard
500 g Ruby chard
500 g Bright Lights chard
6 tablespoons ghee (clarified butter – or you can substitute olive oil)
6 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
3 small dried red chillies, crumbled
2 tablespoons fresh fennel herb
Maldon salt and freshly-ground black pepper
3 lemons, cut into wedges
Ruby chard and Bright Lights chard have tougher stalks than Swiss chard. Cut these off about 5 cm from the base of the leaf. Swiss chard in the summer has broader, more tender stalks and they are good to eat, but only if they’re white and crisp. If still green, cut them off (as with the coloured chard). Cut all the white stalks into one-centimetre slices.
Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil. If you are using the white stalks (above), cook them for eight minutes. Remove from the water with a slatted spoon. Cook the remaining leaves – you may have to do this in batches – for five minutes or until tender, but still a little al dente.
Heat the ghee in a very large, thick-bottomed frying pan. Add the garlic and cook briefly to soften it and flavour the oil, then add the crumbled chilli, fennel herb and the chard leaves and stalks. Stir them around in the pan to collect the flavours, then season generously. Serve with lemon wedges.
An extremely delicious, useful sauce to add to just about anything.
1 large bunch flat-leaf parsley
1 bunch flat-leaf basil
a handful of fresh mint leaves
3 garlic cloves, peeled
100 g (4 oz) salted capers
100 g (4 oz) salted anchovies
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Maldon Salt and freshly-ground black pepper
LULU’S SALAD DRESSING
In a screw-top jam jar, pour one measure of good quality vinegar to two measures of olive oil. (If you’re using balsamic vinegar, you don’t need quite so much vinegar as it’s quite powerful). Add a crushed clove of garlic, a smidgen of salt and pepper and a teaspoon or so of mustard. Then shake it up, baby! It’s delicious. Try adding a little chopped up chilli pepper if you want to spice it up, or try lemon juice instead of vinegar. Once you’ve got the basic proportions right, it’s fun to experiment. And there’s no ‘hidden sugar’ in this recipe – unlike so many shop-bought salad dressings.
PROTEIN POWDER RECIPE
This uses Xylitol instead of sugar, so doesn’t send your blood sugar into the stratosphere – and it’s wheat free, too. Truly delicious…
6 scoops Chocolate Viennese Powder (the scoop comes with the powder)
7 scoops Xylitol
4 scoops Green & Black’s organic cocoa powder
3 scoops psyllium husk powder or Vitol Egg Protein Powder
2 tsp baking powder (optional)
200g organic non-salted butter
200g organic cream cheese or mascarpone
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup chopped organic walnuts
Mix all dry ingredients together. Beat together butter and cream cheese. Then beat eggs and vanilla. To this, slowly mix in the dry ingredients and stir in nuts.
AND WHAT’S IN MY LARDER
OK, so if Loyd Grosman came round and did a Through The Keyhole on my larder and my fridge, here’s what else he’d find…
- Fabulous extra virgin olive oil. I buy mine from The River Café, and yes, it’s expensive: I am Mrs. La-di-Dah when it comes to olive oil – but when I put fat into my body, I want it to be the very best quality that there is. Again, good fats chase out bad: many processed foods are still packed with hydrogenated fat, which has been linked to heart disease – whereas olive oil is packed with what are called polyphenols (so I’ve found out), which are beneficial antioxidants.
- I’m not big on fruit. Fruit actually has a lot of sugar in it, and that triggers a bit of a roller-coaster effect. So I avoid bananas – which don’t agree with my digestion – and I find oranges acidic. I do, though, love berries: blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries – you’ll always find them in my fridge because if I’m peckish, a little plate of berries satisfies my urge for something sweet. And they’re an antioxidant powerhouse, too, so I like the idea that I’m also helping my skin.
- If I haven’t been well, I make sure I have yoghurt because that seems to help get my body back in balance. I buy the 2% fat variety, and it’s delicious with those berries on top. But I have to be careful with dairy. I know it doesn’t agree with me; it can give me the sniffles and it’s not great for my voice. Of course, this is the same person who used to make herself bowls of custard when she got home from school – and who’s been known, once upon a time, used to sit down with a tub of ice cream and eat until I just couldn’t face another spoonful… But once I realised that my body didn’t respond well to diary, it made it so much easier to give up. (If you think there are some foods that disagree with you to some extent – but you’re not sure – try keeping a food diary, and writing down what you eat and how it makes you feel, immediately afterwards and over the next few hours, or the next day. It makes it so much easier to work out what triggers bloating, or a break-out of spots, or a runny nose.)
- I love wine – but the rule is that I never drink before I’m performing, because I honestly don’t think I could sing with alcohol in my body. I like a glass of good red wine. If I’m sitting at home on my own, watching the TV, I might have a glass of red wine with my dinner. I’m definitely not a wine connoisseur but my inner girly likes it if I’m out with a guy and he knows his way around a wine list. That’s very sexy in a man. And on holiday? Give me a nice chilled rosé, when that sun’s beating down… A friend of mine who really knows how to live introduced me to Laurent Perrier pink Champagne, and it helped me to realise that when it comes to wine, quality is better than quantity.
- It was all about milk chocolate when I was a kid, but now it’s all about dark – and it has to be Green & Black’s. I’ve read that the dark stuff is packed with antioxidants – who knew? – so I can tell myself that it’s doing me good, and just a square or two is satisfying because it gives you a great big cocoa ‘hit’ without all the fat and sugar. Having said that, I don’t generally keep it in the house – because if I do, I swear it calls my name from behind the larder door…