After weeks of a diet whose main food groups comprise paté, cheese and Ferrero Rocher, I’ve started the new year with mind and gut crying out for a change. I won’t be indulging in any crash dieting, though. Instead, I’ll be shifting my focus to foods that nourish and satisfy and, in particular, feed the gut microbiome. These dishes rely on pulses, which are naturally full of fibre, to provide sustenance to all the microorganisms that make a home in our digestive system and help to keep us healthy. Both are also great to make in bulk and freeze, for days when you can’t face cooking but need something warm and comforting.
Peanut bean stew with tofu and roast garlic
This stew is inspired by some of my favourite south-east Asian flavours. The beans keep it filling, but you could serve it with rice or noodles, if like. The stew freezes well, but the garnish of toasted garlic, coriander and cucumber should be made fresh.
Prep 10 min
Cook 20 min
100g whole raw peanuts
1½ tbsp vegetable oil
4-5 (20g) garlic cloves, peeled and minced
20g ginger, peeled and minced
½ tsp ground turmeric
¼-½ tsp chilli powder, to taste
300g brown onions, peeled and sliced
2 x tins mixed beans – I used kidney and black-eyed beans
150g smooth peanut butter
1 x can coconut milk
150ml boiling water
Zest and juice of 1 lime
3 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp dark brown sugar
1 x 230g bag deep-fried tofu puffs – I like the TofuKing brand
1 cucumber, cut into thin matchsticks
4 garlic cloves
2 tbsp oil
1 small bunch coriander leaves, roughly chopped
Heat the oven to 200C (180C fan)/390F/gas 6. Spread the peanuts on a baking tray and roast for six minutes, until browned and aromatic. Set aside to cool, then roughly chop.
Meanwhile, warm the oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat, then fry the garlic, ginger, turmeric and chilli for one to two minutes, until the garlic starts to brown. Add the onions, fry, stirring, for eight minutes, until softening, then pour in the beans, peanut butter, coconut milk, water, lime zest and juice, fish and soy sauces, and sugar. Simmer for two to three minutes, then add the tofu and simmer for another five minutes.
While the stew simmers, prepare the garnish. Peel the garlic cloves and slice them as thinly as you can. Warm the oil in a small frying pan over a low heat, then fry the garlic for a couple of minutes until hazelnut brown. Pour immediately into a heatproof bowl to stop it overcooking.
To serve, divide the stew into bowls and top with the cucumber and a scattering of roasted peanuts, coriander, toasted garlic and its oil.
Black lentils with miso, mushrooms and spring onions
Miso soup is one of my favourite quick lunches. If you want to make this particularly moreish, use king oyster mushrooms – you can usually find them in south-east Asian shops. They’re a bit pricier than regular button mushrooms, but are far more flavoursome.
Prep 10 min
Cook 20 min
3 tbsp vegetable or olive oil
25g fresh ginger, peeled and minced
250g beluga lentils
300g mushrooms, sliced
1 bunch spring onions, thinly sliced
80g dark miso paste – I use Clearspring’s brown rice miso
Chilli oil, to serve
Put a tablespoon of the oil in a saucepan over a medium heat, then add the ginger and fry until it’s just starting to brown. Pour in the lentils and 600ml boiling water, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes, until the lentils are tender.
While the lentils are cooking, fry the mushrooms in a second pan with another tablespoon of oil for six minutes, until reduced in size and browning at the edges. Turn out on to a plate, then turn up the heat to high, add the final tablespoon of oil and stir-fry the spring onions for a couple of minutes, until charred.
Stir the miso through the cooked lentils (you may need to add a little more or less miso, depending on its strength), then stir in the fried mushrooms and decant into bowls. Serve topped with the spring onions and a drizzle of chilli oil.