It won’t surprise you, but I don’t do dry January. Nor do I do diets. I reign myself in, become a little more pragmatic and try and restore balance by eating a little lighter but still in normal amounts. Or rather, I start eating normal amounts. Replacing sour cream with yogurt. Eating more fish and less meat. A bit more salad. Lots of avocados. Frying less, although still a little. Lighter Brighter cooking is what I shall call it. It is all about being aware that every little bit makes a difference but not killing the enjoyment of it. Food is sustenance and a source of great pleasure. The key to health is home cooking, moderation and exercise. And good sleep.
With diets, I think a lot of people feel better not because they have cut out a food group (don’t get me started), but because they have started paying attention to what they eat, and what they cook. One very big thing is cutting out processed food. Some go from not cooking at all to eating predominantly home cooked food. I bet that if you speak to a lot of very successful dieters, you will discover that they transitioned from not really thinking about what they ate to being a lot more considerate about what they cooked, and eating less processed food. They almost certainly exercised a lot more.
The reality (certainly for me) is that even when you think about what you cook (and I do a lot), it doesn’t mean that you are necessarily eating well. But when you do think about it from a health perspective, and start to feel the benefits of Lighter Brighter cooking, when you can see exactly what you are eating, not through a film in a plastic tray spinning around in a microwave, but because you have cooked it and see just how much of everything has gone in, that is empowering. When you cook, you can also adapt your recipes to make them lighter and no less delicious.
Enter salmon tacos. I am lucky that I live near a great fishmonger (and I have a great butcher too). Last Saturday I went late and there was not much left, but there was some lovely salmon. I did two things with it it, a teriyaki (a simple combination of 50ml soy sauce & 50 ml mirin with 1 tsp of honey, reduced by half over a medium heat, and then used to glaze a just-cooked piece of salmon, delicious) and also some lovely light salmon tacos.
These were speedy, so great for a quick lunch or supper. I used corn tortillas because I prefer the flavour, and natural yogurt in place of richer crema or cheese. I did fry the salmon, not in a batter but coated lightly in a seasoned spiced flour. The rest was salad, including the very virtuous and fabulous avocado. The result was a delicious taco, full of goodness, and lovely little crisp bits of fried salmon, which given the worthiness of everything else in there, was acceptable.
Enjoy and don’t be too hard on yourselves and your dinner. Don’t judge yourself or worry about anyone else judging you. Life is very short and we should enjoy it. Added to all of that, January is the one month of the year that should not be dry. Long nights and short days demand the occasional drink and lovely dinners. Just make your food Lighter & Brighter to compensate. (I will be publishing more Lighter Brighter recipes as the month goes on too).
Recipe: Salmon Tacos
2 tortillas (corn or flour, whatever your preference)
200g salmon, diced sliced into bite size chunks
a few fine slices of red onion
half an avocado
a pinch of dried chipotle chilli or some fresh chilli, sauteed
a few slices of cucumber, with seeds removed
a handful of sliced romaine lettuce
2 tbsp natural yogurt
3 tbsp plain flour
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp chilli powder
light flavourless oil for frying – groundnut or sunflower are good
Prepare your filling by dicing the avocado and mixing with the onion. Sprinkle with the juice of half the lime and mix. This will keep the avocado fresh and green and will take the sharp edge off the onions.
Heat about 2 inches of oil to 180 deg C in a pot using a thermometer or a deep fat fryer (if you don’t have either, it will be roughly ready when a piece of bread starts to sizzle immediately when you put it in). Combine the flour, chilli, cumin and some sea salt, ensuring it is thoroughly mixed. Coat the salmon in the flour and fry for a few minutes (in batches if you must to make sure there is just one layer of salmon), until it is starting to brown and is a little crisp (it won’t crisp completely as it is only a light flour coating). Drain on kitchen paper.
Heat the tortillas in a a hot frying pan for about a minute on each side.
Prepare your taco by dividing the ingredients between the two tortillas and serve with one tbsp of natural yogurt and a sprinkling of chilli on each. Squeeze the remaining lie juice on top and eat immediately, while the salmon is still hot.