Palat­able al­ter­na­tive to di­et­ing

For­get food as pu­n­ish­ment, just eat well and sen­si­bly

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - GOOD FOOD FOR THOUGHT - TOM PARKER BOWLES

A PROSPECT to chill even the lean­est of bel­lies, an all too pre­dictable con­se­quence of the seem­ingly end­less fes­tive bac­cha­na­lia.

As sure as Auld Lang Syne rings in the new year, so the pa­pers are filled with regimes of dreary ab­sti­nence and po-faced par­si­mony.

This is food as pu­n­ish­ment, not plea­sure, guilt-soaked re­pen­tance for the sins of months past.

The only diet that re­ally works comes without celebrity en­dorse­ment – eat less, ex­er­cise more. Sadly, though, this ad­mirable dose of com­mon sense doesn’t of­fer in­stant re­sults and so is largely for­got­ten in favour of the next ridicu- lous fad. A rather more palat­able al­ter­na­tive to some ghastly diet, how­ever, is to eat well, but sen­si­bly.

Fish could be the an­swer to most of your pray­ers. Take snoek, for in­stance, plucked from the sea a few hours back. Make a few slits in the side, and rub in a mix­ture of cumin and cayenne pep­per. Anoint with oil, then cook for a few min­utes each side un­der a fierce grill. Serve with a tomato-and-onion salad, and you have a heaven-sent din­ner.

Mean­while, noth­ing could be eas­ier than a South Amer­i­can ce­viche – the fresh­ness of the fish is para­mount, but most white fish will do. Chop what­ever you pre­fer into small chunks and mix with sliced chillies, diced tomato, co­rian­der, onion and a good whack of lime juice. Let it sit for up to an hour and at­tack with gusto. It sings with fresh­ness and vi­tal­ity.

As the regime goes on, wrench your eyes from the cured red meats at the deli, and gaze to­wards the bowls filled with ar­ti­chokes, an­chovies and olives. The cured an­chovies will put lead in your pen­cil, and served on Ryvita or other such crisp­bread, will suck­er­punch those hunger pangs.

Ryvita is a store-cup­board sta­ple, even in times of un­fet­tered feast­ing. Sal­ads, too, should thrill. Pert leaves of chicory, with their slightly bit­ter tang, ca­ressed with a thin, sharp vinai­grette are un­beat­able, as are canned chick­peas, drained and mixed with pars­ley, olive oil, lemon juice and toma­toes.

One beast that you can eat with aban­don is chicken. Roast a de­cent bird and just ig­nore the skin. If you can. If not, life goes on. Then use the car­cass to cook up a stock (with onions, toma­toes, pars­ley stalks, pep­per­corns, bay, car­rots and cel­ery), the base for end­less healthy soups. Best of all is a fiery broth, where the stock is re­duced down by half, then sprin­kled with fish sauce and lime juice and scat­tered with chillies and co­rian­der. Serve with some rice noo­dles.

Veg­eta­bles, too, can be a joy – a globe ar­ti­choke, with a de­cent dress­ing; av­o­cado drenched in lime and sprin­kled with salt; peas glis­ten­ing with good olive oil; lightly steamed broc­coli and cau­li­flower, served with a chilli-laced fish or soy sauce. Th­ese are all things that taste beau­ti­ful, and will send you to bed sated and un­trou­bled by calo­rie-laden guilt.

So for the next few weeks, for­get the fad di­ets and ex­er­cise com­mon sense. Four­teen days without sausages, steaks and pasta might seem like an eter­nity. But when the healthy op­tion is this at­trac­tive, the time will fly. Fol­lowed, one hopes, by the kilo­grams. – Daily Mail

PIC­TURE: IAN LANDSBERG

PISCINE PLAT­TER: Sal­mon sashimi and salad, a winning com­bi­na­tion for taste and healthy eat­ing.

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