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A simple, delicious, lunch or supper dish.

Asparagus and Parmesan omelette (serves 1)

Ingredient Calories per serving
5g butter 36
200g fresh asparagus spears, sliced into short lengths 40
2 eggs, beaten 126
15g Parmesan cheese, grated 48
salt and pepper to taste 0

Total calories per serving: 250

Method: Melt the butter in a frying pan over a medium heat and add the sliced asparagus spears. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until tender, then pour over the beaten eggs. Sprinkle the grated parmesan over the eggs and add salt and pepper. Cook the omelette until the top is set (about 3 minutes). Fold the omelette in half and serve.

Chickpea, chorizo, pepper and tomato stewChickpea, chorizo, pepper and tomato stew (serves 1)

Ingredient Calories per serving
½ cup cooked chickpeas 134
35g chorizo sausage 87
1 large red pepper (160g), diced 50
25g sundried tomatoes, sliced 65
1 cup crushed tinned tomatoes 32
1 tsp smoked paprika 6
salt and pepper to taste 0

Total calories per serving: 380

Method: If you’re using dried chickpeas, soak them overnight and cook them until tender (this takes about an hour in a regular pan, or 15 minutes in a pressure cooker). Slice the chorizo and then cut the slices into quarters. Cook the chorizo pieces in a small pan until they exude some fat, then add the diced red pepper and cook for a few minutes. (For a vegetarian/vegan version, just use a teaspoon of olive oil instead of the chorizo.) Stir in the sliced sundried tomatoes, then add the crushed tomatoes, paprika and seasoning. Stir in the cooked chick peas (if you are using canned chick peas, heat until the chick peas are warmed through).

Chickpea and pepper raita

This is a good (very easy) side dish for an Indian meal – but also makes an excellent lunch or supper on a fasting day (or indeed both, if you can save half of it for later on). The spices listed here are just suggestions – put in whatever you like or have to hand.

Chickpea and pepper raita (serves 1)

Ingredient Calories per serving
1 cup cooked chickpeas 269
1 sweet red pepper, deseeded and diced 37
½ tsp cumin seeds 4
½ tsp fenugreek seeds 6
½tsp mustard seeds 8
½ cup yoghurt (2% fat) 87
2 tsps lemon juice 2
salt and pepper 0

Total calories per serving: 415

Method: Toast the whole spices over a medium heat until they are fragrant, then coarsely grind them with a mortar and pestle. Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl and chill for an hour or two before eating (the dish that is – but you could, too!).

In my ‘Does it work?’ page on this blog, I explained that I hadn’t had my blood tested, so couldn’t comment on the way that a fasting diet would affect my cholesterol levels. Recently I changed doctors and the new one sent me for blood tests. Yesterday he discussed the result with me and told me that my cholesterol levels were too high and that I should be thinking about my food choices and my exercise levels.

I felt, well, incredulous. I am now at the lower end of the ideal weight range for my height and build, my blood pressure is where it should be, I’m eating more healthily than ever, I don’t touch junk food, my exercise levels are above average and I have to sit and listen to a lecture about my lifestyle choices? Armed with my ‘too high’ numbers, I came home seething and spent an hour or two on the Internet, trying to work out what the numbers I’d been given really meant.

So, here are the figures he gave me – the ones we should all be aiming for in the first column (more detailed explanation of the numbers here), and my totals in the second:

Goal Yours
Total cholesterol <5.2 6.1
HDL (good cholesterol) >0.8 2.0
LDL (bad cholesterol) <2.5 3.8
Triglycerides <2.0 0.7
Ratio [Total cholesterol/HDL] <5.0 3.0
Fasting glucose <6.5 5.6

On the face of it, the high total cholesterol doesn’t look good. And what about all that ‘bad cholesterol’?!

Except… when I started reading about LDL, it became clear that calling it ‘bad’ is misleading, because there are two different types of LDL. The bad type is the small dense variety which infiltrates the walls of blood vessels and deposits gunk in them. The other type is larger and often described as ‘fluffy': it doesn’t cause the same damage to the blood vessels.

So how do you know which type you have? There are tests which can tell you, but a simple way of determining the type of LDL in your blood is to look at the measurements of HDL and triglycerides. If your HDL number is low and your triglycerides one high, then your LDL is likely to be the dangerous, small dense type. If HDL is high and triglycerides low (as mine are), then your LDL is likely to be the benign kind. And high levels of HDL actually have a protective effect. Turns out, it’s the HDL and triglyceride numbers that are the best predictor of cardiovascular disease – not the LDL one.

Having done this reading, I’m happy with my numbers. What bothers me is that my doctor doesn’t seem to understand them and that I had to listen to his standard lecture on healthy eating. Not impressed…

Green lentil, feta and beet salad

Another really simple but filling and tasty salad. Lentils take a while to cook, so I tend to cook two cups at a time and freeze or refrigerate the leftovers to use at a later date. If you have a pressure cooker, it only takes 10 minutes to cook them.

I didn’t get around to taking a photo of this dish, but it was so good that I will be making it again (using one of my frozen batches!) and will refresh this post with a picture then [done!].

Green lentil, feta and pickled beet salad (serves 1)

Ingredient Calories per serving
1 cup cooked green lentils 230
25g feta cheese 66
50g pickled beets 33
½tsp olive oil 20
1 tsp wine vinegar 1

Total calories per serving: 350

Method: Crumble or slice the feta into small pieces and chop the beets up if they are large. Combine all the ingredients and enjoy!

Tuna, chickpea and sweetcorn salad

This is a really easy pantry-cupboard salad to throw together when you need a lunch for work and don’t have a lot of time to make one. Canned chickpeas are great for this, but if you’re feeling more organised, you could also cook dried peas which have been soaked overnight – you then need to simmer them for an hour (or cook for 15 minutes in a pressure cooker). Home cooked chickpeas taste better, but canned is good if you need speed!

Tuna, chickpea and sweetcorn salad (serves 2)

Ingredient Calories per serving
1½ cups cooked chickpeas 214
1 cup cooked sweetcorn kernels (canned is fine) 62
120g (1 small can) albacore tuna 70
1 tsp olive oil 20
1 tbsp wine vinegar 2
salt and pepper to taste 0

Total calories per serving: 365

Method: Drain the tuna, chickpeas and corn and combine in a bowl, adding the oil and vinegar and seasoning to taste. If you’re using frozen corn, steam or microwave it for a minute or two and allow to cool before combining it with the other ingredients.

It’s still very cold and very snowy here, so fasting meals continue to be spicy and colourful to compensate!

Today’s is a warming matar dal, similar to the one I featured back in 2012, but with winter kale instead of summer’s zucchini.

Matar Dal with Kale

Matar dale with kale (serves 1)

Ingredient Calories per serving
¼ cup yellow split peas 168
1 tbsp butter or oil 100
1 onion, diced 47
1 red chilli pepper, sliced 3
1 tsp cumin seeds 8
1 tsp mustard seeds 15
½ tsp allspice 2
½ tsp turmeric 4
25g kale, chopped 12

Total calories per serving: 365

Method: Rinse peas and place in a pan with enough water to cover the peas to the depth of half an inch/1 cm (about one and a half cups). Bring to the boil and then simmer for 20-30 minutes or until the peas are tender – or cook for 10 minutes in a pressure cooker.

Heat the oil in another pan and stir in the onion, cooking on a low heat for 5-10 minutes until they have softened. Stir in the chilli pepper, then the spices. Raise the heat and cook for a few minutes until the spices become fragrant, then lower the heat and stir in the kale and cook until the kale is soft. Stir in the cooked split peas, which by now should be cooked. If the peas are too watery, strain off some of the liquid before adding them to the curry.

I served mine over rice, which adds another 170 calories to the total.

I’ve not used tofu as an ingredient before – mainly because it isn’t exactly a mainstream supermarket staple here, but I did find it recently and thought it might be worth experimenting with, especially for fasting-day meals. Tofu seems to vary a lot in calories – the brand I bought (Liberté) was 170 calories for a quarter of the pack, whereas others seem to be lighter, so do check the packaging. Tofu needs robust flavours, so I made another curry with it. With rice, this comes out on the high side for a fasting day, but you could easily use less tofu or less rice to bring the calories down.

Tofu, Pepper and Kale Curry

Tofu, pepper and kale curry (serves 4)

Ingredient Calories per serving
1 cup brown basmati rice 169
1 tbsp butter or oil 25
1 onion, sliced 11
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped 3
1 tsp cumin seeds 2
1 tsp fenugreek seeds 3
1 tsp coriander seeds 0
1 tsp mustard seeds 4
1 whole cayenne pepper, sliced 2
2 de-seeded red bell peppers, sliced 17
450g firm tofu, diced 170
400g tomaotes, blended to a purée 18
160g kale, chopped 21

Total calories per serving: 445

Method: Cook the rice in two cups of water for about 20 minutes. In another pan, heat the butter or oil over a medium heat, then add the onions and cook for 5-10 minutes. Meanwhile, toast the whole spices over a medium heat and then grind them up (fairly coarsely is fine). Add the garlic to the onion, then stir in all the spices and the red peppers and tofu. Stir in the tomatoes and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the kale and cook for a further five minutes and then serve.

Spicy Pumpkin Soup

I’ve done a pumpkin soup on here before, but this one is spicier and lower in calories (and quicker to make). It’s perfect for a really cold winter’s day, which is what we’re experiencing here right now. The spices are just suggestions – use whatever you have to hand.

Spicy Pumpkin soup (serves 4)

Ingredient Calories per serving
1 tbsp butter or oil 25
1 onion, diced 11
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped 2
1 tsp cumin seeds 2
1 tsp fenugreek seeds 3
1 tsp coriander seeds 0
1 tsp mustard seeds 4
1 tsp ground ginger 2
1 tsp smoked garlic powder 2
450g pumpkin purée (made from 1 small pie pumpkin, peeled, deseeded and cooked) 38

Total calories per serving: 90

Method: Heat the butter or oil in a pan and cook the onions in it until they are going translucent (about five minutes). Meanwhile, heat the whole spices in a dry saucepan until fragrant, then grind (with pestle and mortar or in a blender). Stir the garlic into the diced onions, cook for a minute, then add all of the spices and cook for another minute before adding the pumpkin purée. Cook until the soup is warmed through. If you think it’s too thick, you can add some water or stock to thin it down. I like mine gloopy!

Ice formations

It’s well and truly winter now, but I did manage to dig up one last harvest before the snow and ice arrived.

Leek and sunchoke soup

This is one way of using some of that winter vegetable harvest up – a warming but simple soup.

Leek and sunchoke soup (serves 1)

Ingredient Calories per serving
1 tsp butter or oil 40
50g/2oz leeks, halved and sliced 31
200g/8oz sunchokes/Jerusalem artichokes, roughly chopped 146
300ml/10 fluid ounces vegetable stock 12
salt and pepper to taste 0

Total calories per serving: 240

Method: Sweat the sliced leek in the oil or butter over a lowish heat until softened, then add the pieces of sunchoke and cook for another minute or two. Stir in the stock, bring to a simmer and cook until the sunchokes are soft (about half an hour). Blend to smoothness and season with salt and pepper to your taste.

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