I’m sure these words won’t arouse a great deal of sympathy, but all this cooking does take its toll on my waistline – developing and sampling new recipes not to mention testing the most mouthwatering array of dishes during reviews of the most marvellous cookery books… So, as I promised myself some weeks ago, I have been attending Joy-of –the – Sticky-All-Bran-Loaf –fame’s exercise classes. Joy is a friend, Personal Trainer and though perhaps my (not-very-sport-orientated) daughter doesn’t realise the benefits, a great school teacher too.

Exercise is difficult to begin, but once in a routine it is easier to continue. This of course, must be coupled with sensibility of eating and it is always a pleasure to receive a recipe flyer from Joy at the close of a session. These ideas are often small tweaks on favourites – just tiny ways of introducing healthier options, which when added together can make an enormous difference.

This selection from Joy teams perfectly with party aperitifs: A Dip, A Chip and Naan Bread. I don’t know anyone who can refuse guacamole dip and whilst avocados are a powerhouse of nutrients, they are also high in fat. Adding tender sweet peas which don’t contain fat, the dip is extended and its overall calorific value is lowered. Likewise, by utilising spray oil, all the fat and calories normally found in taco chips are immediately reduced.

These recipes are so very easy to prepare and much, much cheaper than shop bought alternatives, but for me it is the quality and flavour which wins hands down.

I simply detest those bags of artificial tasting taco chips, and actively try to forget those sweaty plastic packages of Naans. Based in France where Indian food isn’t terribly popular and good ‘curry restaurants’ are sparse, I had given up all hopes of Naan bread …until I tried this recipe: Taken from Indian Food Made Easy by Anjum Anand this light bead is utterly simple to prepare and great fun to make with the kids – though do supervise the hot grill! Many thanks to Quadrille – it is with their permission that I can publish this fabulous recipe. Fresh from the oven, this bread is equally at home as an accompaniment to Indian cuisine or for scooping up delectable dips.

Healthy Option Guacamole

  • 100g tender frozen peas*
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • juice of a lemon
  • 1 tomato, deseeded and chopped
  • ½ small onion, finely chopped
  • fresh coriander, chopped

1. Place the peas in a microwavable container with 60ml water and cook for 1½ minutes on High. Alternatively, briefly cook to manufacturers instructions, drain then add 60ml water. Allow to cool.

2. Using a hand blender or liquidizer, blitz the peas until they are smooth. Add the avocado and lemon juice, blitzing again to your desired consistency.

3. Fold in the chopped tomatoes, onion and coriander. Serve at room temperature with a selection of raw vegetables and taco chips.

* do choose tender, good quality peas which only require the briefest of cooking to al denté.

Home Baked Tortilla Chips

  • I package of flour (soft) tortillas
  • Spray cooking oil
  • Optional flavourings such as sea salt, cracked black pepper, chopped fresh herbs or cayenne pepper.

Preheat the oven to 225C and line a tray with baking parchment.

1. Spray both sides of the flour tortilla with cooking oil – I find holding the tortilla above the kitchen sink reduces unnecessary mess, then using a pizza cutter or sharp knife, cut each one into 8 triangular pieces.

2. Lay the pieces on the baking tray, sprinkle with any flavourings and bake for 6 minutes or until they are just beginning to colour. Don’t wander away – they will quickly overcook and burn! Cool on a rack and serve with your favourite dips.

Naan Bread

Makes 5

(Words and recipe taken from Indian Food Made Easy by Anjum Anand. Published in 2007, GBP 14.99
Reproduced courtesy of Quadrille)

Everyone loves naan. It is quintessential restaurant bread, made with plain rather than whole-wheat flour and is softer and more doughy than other Indian flat breads. It is easy to make and the real thing is quite different from the supermarket version, which also tastes great but always seems to be a cross-breed between the original and good bread. Naan should be soft with a few crisp raised bits. Add a topping of your choice. I love nigella seeds the most, but even simple coriander and garlic make a great topping.

  • 250g plain flour
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 110 – 130ml milk
  • nigella seeds, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, chopped garlic and fresh coriander or a mixture of pumpkin and sunflower seeds
  • 1tbsp butter, melted for brushing

Sift together the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. Mix together the milk and oil. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in the liquids.

Slowly mix together the dough by working outwards from the centre and incorporating the flour from the edges of the well to make a smooth, soft dough. Knead well for 8-10 minutes, adding a little flour if the dough is too sticky.

Place in an oiled bowl, cover with a damp tea-towel and leave for at least 1 hour in a warm place to double in size. When risen, punch out and form into five balls.

Preheat the grill to its highest setting and put a heavy baking sheet on the upper shelf.

Meanwhile, start to roll out the dough into teardrop or oval shapes, then gently prick all over with a fork. Sprinkle over the seed topping and press into the dough. Place the nanns on the hot baking sheet and grill for 1-2 minutes or until there are brown spots on the surface. Brush with butter and serve hot.

Peshwari naan: to make this filled naan, pulse together 70g shelled pistachios, 35g raisins and 1½tsp caster sugar to make a coarse powder. Divide into 5 portions. Roll the naan into thick circles, fill each with one portion of the filling and pinch the dough around it to close. Roll out the naan again into teardrop or oval shapes. Sprinkle over 30g flaked almonds, then grill and serve as above.

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