Healthy Comfort Food Recipes Just In Time For Chilly Weather

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Photography: William and Susan Brinson

When you’re in the mood for comfort food, you want it to taste like it’s supposed to: rich, delicious, comforting – not all “healthified” (“low fat!” “sugar free!”) and cardboardy.

Well, prepare your taste buds for the surprise of a lifetime, because we’ve come up with recipes that do the impossible: combine solid nutrition with real, decadent indulgence. We’re talking gooey mac and cheese, crispy fish and chips, temptingly sweet brownies –all just slightly modified so you can enjoy the flavours you crave without the waistline expansion that usually accompanies them. And as you’ll see, there’s nothing complicated about it at all.

Fish And Chips

Ingredients (makes 4 servings)

For fish

  • 30g wholemeal breadcrumbs
  • 25g grated parmesan
  • 1tsp ground flaxseed
  • 4 skinless cod fillets, 90g each

For tartar sauce

  • 250g fat-free Greek yogurt
  • 2tbsp sweet relish
  • 2tbsp chopped fresh chives
  • 1tsp chopped fresh dill
  • 1tsp Dijon mustard
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Pinch of rock salt
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • Dill pickles

For cheesy polenta bites

  • 500g sleeve organic polenta, cut into 2.5cm rounds, then diced into bite-size pieces
  • Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
  • 75g grated parmesan
  • Pinch of black pepper

To Make

  1. Preheat the oven to 190°C/gas 5. In a bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, parmesan and flaxseed for the fish.
  2. Oil a baking pan and place the fish on it. Sprinkle the crumb mixture evenly over the fish. Bake for 15 minutes.
  3. In a bowl, combine the yogurt, relish, chives, dill, mustard, lemon juice, salt and cayenne pepper, and chill.
  4. Place the polenta in a bowl and drizzle oil on top. Add the parmesan and pepper and gently toss until coated.
  5. Line a baking sheet with foil and oil it. Place the polenta bites on the sheet and bake for 12 minutes.
  6. Divide the polenta bites into four and serve with a piece of fish, a few pickles and a dollop of tartar sauce.

Nutrition (Per Serving): 388 calories, 41g protein, 30g carbs, 12g fat

Quinoa Meat Loaf

Ingredients (makes 8 servings)

  • 135g quinoa, cooked
  • 1tsp thyme
  • 1tsp chilli powder
  • 1tsp black pepper
  • 125ml unsweetened almond milk
  • ½ a medium onion, chopped
  • 1 small carrot, chopped
  • ½ a red pepper, chopped
  • Handful of rocket leaves
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1.15kg turkey mince
  • 1tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 2tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley

For glaze

  • 100ml organic ketchup
  • 1tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1tsp Tabasco sauce
  • 1tsp cumin
  • 1tsp honey

To Make

  1. Preheat the oven to 175°C/gas 4. In a bowl, combine the cooked quinoa, thyme, chili powder, black pepper and almond milk. Set aside.
  2. In a food processor, combine the onion, carrot, pepper, rocket and garlic. Pulse until all are well chopped but be careful not to overchop.
  3. Transfer the vegetables to a large mixing bowl and add the turkey and the quinoa mixture. Add the egg and salt and gently combine.
  4. Line a baking sheet with oiled foil. Mould the meat into a rectangular shape in the centre. In a bowl, mix all the glaze ingredients together and brush over the meat loaf.
  5. Bake the meat loaf for about 45 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 75°C on your meat thermometer. Stand for five minutes, then slice, sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Nutrition (Per Serving): 345 calories, 41g protein, 12g carbs, 17g fat

Butternut Squash Mac And Cheese

Ingredients (makes 6 servings)

For mac and cheese

  • 450g pasta or rice pasta
  • 1tsp olive oil
  • ½ a medium onion, grated
  • 1tsp liquid amino acids
  • 1tsp ground pepper
  • 1tsp fresh or dried thyme
  • ¼tsp cayenne pepper
  • ¼tsp nutmeg
  • ½ a butternut squash, diced (or use frozen)
  • 250ml chicken stock
  • 125ml unsweetened almond milk
  • 2tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 60g grated cheddar

For garnish

  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed and minced
  • 60g standard or gluten-free breadcrumbs
  • 2tbsp chopped fresh parsley

To Make

  1. Cook the pasta according to packaging instructions.
  2. Meanwhile, place a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the oil, onion, amino acids, pepper, thyme, cayenne and nutmeg. Stir until the onions are translucent.
  3. Add the squash, stock, almond milk and yeast and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat. With a hand blender, purée the sauce until smooth. Stir in the cheese.
  4. Strain the pasta and stir it into the sauce.
  5. In a separate saucepan, add the garlic, breadcrumbs and parsley and cook for a minute over medium hear. Serve pasta in bowls, garnished with the breadcrumb mixture.

Nutrition (Per Serving): 364 calories, 10g protein, 68g carbs, 7g fat

RECOMMENDED: Healthy Lasagne Recipe

Sloppy Joes

Ingredients (makes 4 servings)

  • 4 medium sweet potatoes
  • 1tbsp coconut oil
  • 450g turkey mince
  • 400g canned finely chopped tomatoes
  • 400g passata
  • 1tsp honey
  • 2tbsp cider vinegar
  • 1tbsp honey mustard
  • ¼tsp rock salt
  • Ground pepper
  • 1tsp garlic powder
  • Large handful of flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped

To Make

  1. Preheat the oven to 190°C/gas 5. Cut the sweet potatoes lengthwise, deep enough to open them in half. Line a baking sheet with foil and place the sweet potatoes on it flesh side down. Bake for 25 minutes.
  2. Place a skillet on medium-high heat and add oil. Add the turkey and break it up with a spoon. Lower the heat to medium-low and cook the meat.
  3. Add the tomatoes, passata, honey, vinegar and mustard. Season with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Cook until the mixture thickens.
  4. When the potatoes are done, place them open side up on a plate and scoop a heaped spoonful of the turkey mixture into the centre of each. Garnish each plate with a sprinkle of parsley.

Nutrition (Per Serving): 446 calories, 35g protein, 44g carbs, 16g fat

Brownies With Whipped Mint Cashew Cream

Ingredients (makes 16 servings)

For brownies

  • 12 pitted dates, soaked in warm water for 30 minutes
  • 1 package silken tofu
  • 60g unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 125ml unsweetened almond milk
  • 2tbsp cacao nibs (or mini dark chocolate chips) plus another 1 tbsp for garnish
  • 2tbsp vanilla extract
  • 2tbsp chia seeds
  • Dash of cayenne pepper
  • Pinch of rock salt
  • 6tbsp brown rice flour
  • ½tsp baking powder
  • 1tbsp sliced almonds

For mint cashew cream

  • 250g raw cashews, soaked in warm water at least 15 minutes
  • 150g fresh spinach
  • ¾tbsp mint extract or large handful of fresh mint leaves, soaked
  • 2tbsp maple syrup

To Make

  1. Preheat the oven to 175°C/gas 4.
  2. Put the dates, tofu, cocoa powder, almond milk, 2tbsp cacao nibs, vanilla, chia seeds, cayenne and salt in a food processor and blend, periodically pausing the blender to scrape down the sides.
  3. Add the flour and baking powder and pulse the blender to incorporate. Coat a 22x22cm baking dish with cooking spray or oil and transfer the batter to the dish.
  4. Top the batter with the other 1tbsp reserved cacao nibs and almonds. Bake for 40 minutes or until the brownies are set. Allow to cool completely before cutting.
  5. Place all cashew cream ingredients in the blender and blend. To serve, place a brownie on a plate and top with a dollop of the cashew cream. Garnish with a mint sprig, if liked.

Nutrition (Per Serving): 189 calories, 5g protein, 20g carbs, 12g fat