Gourmet vegetarian chef Natasha Corrett has created gluten-free, dairy-free and refined sugar-free recipes that are perfect for when time is short.
Starting the day in a hurry and running out of your home without eating breakfast is one of the worst things you can do to your health. It sets you off on a bad foot for the rest of your day, causing unhealthy habits to arise. However, if you have delicious, nutritious food ready prepared in your fridge, you can grab something on the way out of the door and set yourself up for the day.
Being in a hurry can be the result of poor time management, which I most definitely have. Not planning my time properly and thinking I can squeeze in one more meeting or project, ends up meaning I eat into 'my' time. Being in a rush causes us to fuel our bodies in an unhealthy way, which then creates a downward spiral. The thoughts that go round and round in our head are mostly likely: “Oh, I'll be good tomorrow ...” “I'm just so tired, I can't be bothered to cook, let's grab a takeaway ...” or “I'm starving, I haven't eaten all day apart from a coffee and chocolate at 3pm to keep me going.” Not eating balanced meals during the day sets your blood sugar levels all over the place, resulting in cravings and energy lows, which is why you find yourself reaching for a refined carb option and sugar-laden treats by the afternoon.
Two years ago I was training chefs in a production kitchen away from home and for two months I was just seeing the inside of my hotel room and the inside of the kitchen. You might think I was cooking healthy food all day, but when I am cooking I tend not to be hungry until about two hours after I finish. I was so tired by then that I just found myself ordering off the hotel menu, asking for things I would never usually choose like pizza and pasta, because I wanted 'comfort food'. I was also too tired to exercise in the mornings. About five weeks into this stint I realised that I needed to snap out of it. I started doing just 20 minutes HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) in my room with no equipment before going to work. When I got to work, I made myself a massive bottle of green smoothie and sipped it throughout the morning, and then before leaving I grabbed some roasted vegetables, some seeds and a a dressing and took them back with me to the hotel to have when I got hungry. Within three days I was bouncing off the walls again with energy, which made me realise that it takes such little effort to give you an abundance of energy. When I added it up, the only extra time I was using of my day was 35 minutes, and that included my exercise plan and preparing breakfast and dinner.
Smashed salted cucumber, mint and avocado
I have had a slight obsession with lemony and salty cucumber for some time now. I love this salad – it is so fresh and zesty.
3 small cucumbers
a large pinch of Himalayan pink salt
juice of ½ lemon
1 avocado, peeled and stone removed
150g feta cheese
1 tablespoons olive oil
Cut the cucumbers into quarters and put into a freezer bag with the salt and lemon juice. Get a rolling pin and bash the outside of the bag so cucumbers smash up (don't go crazy thinking of your ex-boyfriend and massacre them – just enough so they are slightly broken on the edges). Shake the bag so that the salt and lemon juice are covering the cucumbers evenly. Leave for 15 minutes, or longer if you have the time.
Cut the avocado into slices and arrange on a plate. Add chunks of feta, whole fresh mint leaves and the smashed cucumber. Drizzle with the olive oil and serve as a side dish, or add salad leaves for a main.
Avocado and tahini dip
I get asked all the time what is the one ingredient I can't live without, and I always say avocado. Its nutritional properties are amazing, being full of vitamin E and essential fats.
1 small clove garlic
juice of ½ lemon
2 tablespoons tahini
Put all ingredients into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.
Serve with crackers or crudites.
Middle Eastern potato salad
I love using spices in all my dishes, especially in rice dishes as I am hugely influenced by Middle Eastern cooking. This salad is so simple and really punches with flavour.
350g roasted sweet potato, cooled
10g parsley, chopped
pomegranate seeds, to garnish
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon Himalayan pink salt
250g goat's or sheep's milk yoghurt
First make the dressing by mixing the cinnamon, cumin, pinch of salt and yoghurt together.
Arrange the cooled sweet potato on a platter, pour the dressing over it and sprinkle with the chopped parsley. Serve with a salad or as a side dish, garnished with the pomegranate seeds if you like.
If you want nourishment in a bowl in 10 minutes, then this warming, velvety soup is for you. Vibrantly green and full of flavour, it is a go-to easy suppers that really fills you up.
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
110g leeks, chopped into pieces
½ teaspoon fennel seeds, plus extra to garnish
1 tablespoon coconut oil
500ml boiling water
1 teaspoon bouillon powder
270g broccoli, cut into florets
a pinch of Himalayan pink salt
Saute the garlic, leeks and fennel seeds in the coconut oil for 2 minutes. Add the boiling water and bouillon powder, bring to the boil and simmer for two minutes.
Add the broccoli and cook for 4 minutes until soft.
Take off the heat, add the dill, pour into a blender and whiz until smooth. Add salt to taste and blend once more. Garnish with fennel seeds.
Sunday prep night
Preparing your food ahead is key. Sunday night is my prep night. On a Sunday I will roast about three different trays of vegetables, cook some grains and pulses, make two salad dressings, wash my greens and make a dip for the week. That way it doesn't matter how tired I get, I will always have food in my fridge that I can pull together in a few minutes.
Batch cooking and freezing is the most cost-effective way to cook and eat. I love to make large curries, soups, cakes and treats and freeze them in single-portion freezer bags so they can be heated up from frozen with absolutely no fuss.
Finding time to do advance food prep is half the battle. If you can book it into your diary like a meeting or a date with a friend, then it's always there and, no matter what, it doesn't get moved. I have a few of these appointments in my diary. And along with my prep cooking there is my gym time and one night a week when it is time for me to watch a movie, take a bath uninterrupted, treat myself to a massage, or just go for a walk. Whatever happens, these dates with myself don't get cancelled for anything!
These recipes are extracted from Honestly Healthy in a Hurry by Natasha Corrett, published by Hachette Australia RRP $45.00.