The Dirty Chef: Top three easy to make healthy recipes
@dirtychef_has provided you with his top three easy to make healthy recipes.
From the perfect pasta dish to homemade hummus, this article will get your taste buds tingling.
All copy and images by James D. O’Leary.
Eggs; get ready to go from one-night stand to discussing baby names with this staple, it’s the first thing I ever taught myself to cook, and right now is the perfect time to master scrambled eggs.
Like a lot of things, there’s a lot of personal preference involved, but I’ll run you through the basics:
SO, The French way is to slowly cook the eggs over a bain-marie, and over the course of about 10 minutes the eggs will turn into a sort of rich savoury-custard with really fine delicate curds. It’s great, but takes ages, and there’s more washing up.
American-style eggs tend to happen a lot quicker, adding beaten eggs into a pre-heated frying pan with butter and folding the eggs into themselves until there are big curds and shiny sheets of scrambled eggs. Again, nothing wrong with it, and it’s ideal if you’re pressed for time.
The Brits generally aim for somewhere in between, which is the way I cook mine. Start with a cold saucepan and crack in three eggs per-person, with a small knob of butter. Using a wooden spoon or a silicone spatula, stir them continuously over a low-medium heat, and don’t take your eyes off them. When you start to see curds form, take them off the heat for a few seconds, and keep stirring. Then return them to the heat, and repeat this process until they’re soft and delicate, with medium size curds and a little texture, without being chewy. Finish with salt, pepper and butter.
At this point, it’s quite classic to add crème fraiche to stop the cooking process and keep the eggs creamy, which is a great option. Some people use milk, which is also fine, but you don’t NEED any of this stuff, it’s just something to experiment with. Sometimes I’ll finish my eggs with a teaspoon of truffle pesto and a tablespoon of Greek yoghurt. This is an ethereal combination, the earthiness of the truffles, with rich buttery eggs and tangy creamy yoghurt... that’s a winner. Finish with some cold- smoked English trout or salmon and you’re about to dominate the brunch game.
Hummus; this is one of THE great foods in my opinion. Not least because it’s delicious, vegan, healthy, easy and cheap to make, but once you start making it yourself, you might think twice about the shop-bought stuff.
It starts with really simple, humble ingredients; a tin of chickpeas, tahini (a puree of sesame seeds), lemon juice, a clove of garlic, and cumin. Blitz them together in a food processor and drizzle in good olive oil until its creamy and emulsified. Pour into a serving dish, and let it set in the fridge. Serve up with pitta bread, a few spare chickpeas, a shake of smoked paprika and more olive oil. It’s often served at room-temperature, or slightly warm, but I quite like it chilled, which might be sacrilegious but I stand by it.
As with a lot of the dishes I post on my page, I very rarely claim that I’m making an authentic version. There’s often a twist where I’m using seasonal ingredients that are available to me, to put a spin on the classics. Having said all that, I’ve had Hummus in Turkey, Greece and Egypt and after a few attempts, this is as close as I’ve ever been able to get it. Hummus has been around for hundreds of years and this is my take on it.
It boasts myriad health benefits, including being good for your immune system and full of plant-based protein, antioxidants, fibre and slow-release energy, and its dairy, nut and gluten free. This method of making hummus is also a great base for adding your own flavours; roasted-red pepper, beetroot, pea, avocado, coffee... whatever you fancy. I’ve even made it with marmite before! A large portion of hummus will only set you back a couple of quid to make, and it’ll last a few days in the fridge.
"You see what I mean? One of THE great foods."
Pasta; versatile, comfort food in its purest form. This dish is a tuna and pea linguine, and is particularly lockdown-friendly because it comes almost entirely from frozen, tinned or dried ingredients.
Cook your pasta in salted boiling water, and hold back some of the pasta cooking water to help thicken the sauce at the end. When the pasta is nearly done, fry off chilli and garlic in olive oil until fragrant, and go in with a splash of the water and frozen peas. It’s more common to boil frozen peas for a couple of minutes until tender, but I like to undercook them slightly, so they stay fresh and sweet.
I’ve worked in a few different restaurants over the past few years, some very good, some not so good. One thing that surprised me was that they all used frozen peas. Whilst fresh peas are more expensive and seem more premium, they are often less fresh than frozen peas (bear with me). Fresh peas are picked, stored, transported, and then put on a shelf for purchase, a process which often takes a few days. Whereas frozen peas are picked and immediately frozen, often still in the field. So by the time you defrost them, they are only a few hours old, versus ‘fresh’ peas being days old. Unless you live next door to a farm and pick your own peas, I recommend using frozen.
Add the pasta, with drained, good quality, sustainable tuna. Mix well and finish with lemon juice, olive oil, optionally parsley or some grated cheese, and season to taste. The Italians would never put cheese on fish, it’s sort of against the rules, I don’t think cheddar works that well here but hard cheeses like parmesan and pecorino have a place at the table, in my opinion.
It’s one of those dishes that really is greater than the sum of its parts. The sweetness of the peas plays nicely with the warmth and spice of the chilli and garlic. The lemon juice and the olive oil emulsify into a sort of warm vinaigrette, that’s thickened by the starchy pasta water, and it’s all ready in under 10 minutes.