One of the reasons a lot of us stray from a healthy, balanced diet is time. The convenience of sticking a ready meal into the microwave after a long day at work or ordering a takeaway can be overwhelmingly tempting. Not only are the convenient options usually packed full of sugar, salt and saturated fats, they can quickly become a strain on our finances!
This is where a bit of preparation comes in handy – rotate a few of these meals throughout the week and you can freeze your leftovers for those days you’re struggling for time.
Red lentil tarka dhal
Lentils are a wonder when it comes to a healthy, balanced diet, and severely underrated. High in fibre and protein, basically fat-free, quick and easy to cook, versatile, cheap… the list truly goes on! Simply rinse and soak one cup of lentils, then add three cups of stock and simmer for around 30 minutes until the lentils are a smooth consistency. The ‘tarka’ element of the dish is the spice mixture, which is fried in oil before being stirred into the lentil dhal. Typically included in the tarka are cumin seeds, onion, garlic, chilli, ginger, garam masala and sometimes a chopped tomato or two – this oily mixture should then be poured into the lentils when they’re cooked. You can then enjoy with, rice, chapatis and naan bread, or add a touch of extra water to enjoy as a soup.
Three bean veggie chilli
Beef mince typically has quite a high saturated fat content, so is best avoided if you’re looking to steer to healthier options. Smoky, punchy flavour is what you’re looking to achieve here in the absence of the savoury tones produced by beef mince. Garlic, chilli, onion, celery, cumin, ground coriander, cinnamon and smoked paprika should form the base of your flavours, then add chopped tomatoes and stock. Try a splash of soy or Worcestershire sauce to inject an extra kick of flavour. Perfect served with rice or you could wrap it in a tortilla for a burrito work lunch.
Chicken, red pepper and coconut curry
Blend some south-east Asian flavours together to create a fragrant curry with a spicy kick. A standard base of onion, garlic, chilli, ginger and lemongrass will kick things off with an aromatic edge before you add some ground spices (cumin, coriander, fenugreek, turmeric, cinnamon) then add the peppers, chicken and coconut cream. Serve with basmati rice and some chopped spring onion.
Sausage and bean casserole
A comforting, hearty dish, which isn’t too labour intensive, replace pork sausages for their chicken or veggie counterparts for a recipe which cuts down on the saturated fat. Start by frying onion and garlic, then adding celery, peppers and the sausage. Add smoked paprika and thyme for a hint of fragrant flavour before adding tomatoes, white wine and stock. Simmer until the sauce is reduced, then add some butter beans and cannellini for the last five minutes. Serve with creamy mashed potato.
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