Louise Parker’s beautiful, healthy recipes that can help you ditch the diet

Have you ever wished you could press a reset button and lean towards a life of great habits and health? I believe anyone can reset their habits, no matter what their history, age or obstacles. As you may know, I loathe dieting and the ‘on-it/off-it’ mindset. It’s a vicious circle that keeps you in a whirlwind of setting intentions that are too hard, failing, sabotaging and repeating. Instead I’ve always spoken about eating beautifully: good, whole, delicious food. Your food should seduce your senses, even if it’s just a bowl of porridge in the morning. It’s about putting the joy back into food and celebrating your new style of eating in every way possible. Part of your job is to find the beauty in your meals when you prepare and present them, and make them a feast for the eyes. I’m not talking about rose petals and carving carrots here – but plate up proudly. An extra minute spent on presenting your meals will send signals to your mind that you’re eating with joy and you’re loving what you eat. If you’re skipping the effort, you’re subconsciously telling yourself that it’s miserable and you’re deprived when you’re not. I know the word ‘mindful’ is overused, but eating beautifully is about being conscious of what you’re fuelling yourself with. This week, begin to: Lay the table for breakfast before going to bed – you’ll wake up to a calmer morning. Eat at a table and never on the go, unless you really have to. Use your crockery, cutlery, place mats and linen napkins – don’t save wedding gifts for special occasions. Serve up your snacks with as much effort as possible – a side plate, tray and warm drink – and take at least five minutes without your phone to enjoy it. Plate up as you would for guests. Don’t overwhelm yourself with portion sizes and use fresh herbs, lemon, lime and garnishes to bring life and zest to your plate. Apply the ‘Insta-test’ – don’t serve yourself anything that you wouldn’t be proud to put on social media. In the winter months, when you’re in need of a PJ-sofa supper by the fire, lay out your coffee table nicely, including a few tea lights. Never eat standing up or connected to devices. Always sit down and, even if you are at your desk, turn away from the screen while you eat. When you’re packing snacks and lunches to enjoy on the go, choose foods that travel well and invest in beautiful containers that you can reuse. Make ceremony wherever you possibly can. Jars full of lovely goodies for sprinkling can turn a bowl of porridge into a thing of beauty. ‘Louise Parker: The 6 Week Programme’ (Octopus, £20) is out now, available for £16.99 at books.telegraph.co.uk Orange, hazelnut and cinnamon bircher Credit: Louise Hagger This citrus purée is well worth the effort, so batch it. It’s fab spooned on thick Greek yogurt, pancakes or as a smoothie base. Be bold with the cinnamon, these flavours love it. SERVES 1, with leftover purée INGREDIENTS 2 tbsp jumbo oats 150g low-fat Greek yogurt 4 tbsp skimmed milk ½ tsp vanilla bean paste ½ tsp stevia 1 tsp ground cinnamon 1 tbsp toasted hazelnuts, chopped For the orange purée 2 oranges 2 lemons stevia, to taste METHOD To make the bircher, mix together the oats, yogurt, milk, vanilla and stevia. Cover and leave to soak overnight in the fridge. For the purée, cut off the ends of the fruit and discard, then cut the fruit into large wedges. Pop into a large saucepan and add 2 litres of water, making sure the fruit is covered (you can add some more water if not). Bring to the boil, then simmer for 2 hours, topping up with water when necessary. Drain through a colander and leave the fruit wedges to cool. Whizz in a high-speed blender until smooth, then stir in the stevia. Chill until ready to serve. Serve the bircher with 4-5 tablespoons of orange purée marbled through, sprinkled with the cinnamon and chopped hazelnuts. Store the leftover purée in the fridge for up to 3 days. Cod en papillote Credit: Louise Hagger I love cooking en papillote as the food cooks in its own steam, keeping it so juicy and flavoursome. You can make the parcels up to 30 minutes ahead of time, but any more and the paper can get quite soggy. Raw courgette has a lovely mild flavour and good crunch – ideal for a salad. SERVES 4 INGREDIENTS 200g cherry tomatoes, mixed colours if possible 150g mangetout 2 carrots, cut into matchsticks 4 x 125g skinless cod fillets 1 tbsp oregano leaves, chopped, or 1 tsp dried oregano 1 tbsp capers, rinsed 2 lemons 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil sea salt and black pepper For the salad 3 courgettes leaves from 1 bunch of basil, torn 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil 1 tsp wholegrain mustard 100g feta, crumbled 50g unsalted pistachios, chopped METHOD Preheat the oven to 200C/ gas mark 6. Cut 4 large squares of baking paper. Fold each in half, make a crease, open out again and lay them out on your work surface. Make a mound of veggies on one side of each piece of paper. Lay the fish on top of the veggies, sprinkle over the oregano and capers and season to taste. Now squeeze the juice of ½ lemon on to each pile and drizzle over the oil. Fold the other half of the paper over the fish and, starting at one end, make a series of small tight folds all the way around the open edge, working into the fish, sealing it in. You should end up with a crimped effect all the way round the edges, apart from the fold. Carefully lift the parcels on to a baking tray and cook in the oven for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, use a vegetable peeler to cut the courgettes into ribbons, discarding the inner seedy core. Put into a large bowl with the basil, oil and mustard. Season to taste, toss to coat, then gently mix in the feta and pistachios. Set aside. Take the parcels, still sealed, to the table and serve with the courgette salad. Be careful when you open the parcels as the steam will be hot. Choi sum beef soup Credit: Louise Hagger Don’t be put off by the long ingredients list – it’s a doddle to make and delicious. SERVES 4 INGREDIENTS 2 x 150g fillet steaks 700ml good beef stock 1 red onion, finely sliced 1 tbsp fresh root ginger, peeled and grated 1 star anise 1 small cinnamon stick 1 tbsp reduced-sodium soy sauce, or as needed 1 tsp groundnut oil 100g choi sum, chopped 100g sugar snap peas small handful of Thai basil leaves, sliced juice of ½ lime ½ red chilli, sliced 2 spring onions, halved and finely shredded lengthways lime wedges, to serve METHOD Remove the steaks from the fridge and allow them to come to room temperature before cooking. Place the beef stock in a large saucepan with the onion, ginger, star anise, cinnamon stick and soy sauce. Bring to the boil then simmer for a few minutes to help intensify the flavour. Heat the oil in a frying pan over a high heat and add the steaks. Cook for 2-5 minutes on each side, depending on how you like them. Season and set aside, covered in foil, for at least 5 minutes to rest. Add the choi sum and sugar snap peas to the hot stock and simmer until the veggies are tender but still have a little bit of bite to them. Stir in the Thai basil and lime juice. Taste for seasoning, adding a little more soy sauce if you like. Remove the cinnamon stick and star anise, and ladle the soup into bowls. Slice the steak and add to the soup, then sprinkle over the red chilli and spring onions. I like mine with extra zing, so I serve it with lime wedges.


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