It was making soup that really encouraged me to start cooking from scratch and eat more healthily without going on any kind of rigid deprivation diet. A few years ago, I was two and a half stone overweight, stressed out at work and generally fed up! I finally decided enough was enough and I needed to change what and how I was eating and how I was living. It turned out that soup made things much easier; I could lose my wheat belly while eating so many more vegetables and fresh ingredients than before. Ready meals were banished, I cleared out my cupboards and my recipe repertoire slowly but surely increased.
The irony is that I’ve always been interested in good and healthy food. I was the health publisher at Penguin for six years and so I knew my mung beans from my split peas; I just didn’t know how to make them taste delicious! Now I get the best of both worlds. I love to see what healthy foods are coming to the forefront each season and equally Nicole and I both love to come up with delicious ways of cooking them. A couple of years ago I had posted to my Flat Tummy Club that I thought we’d start seeing more seaweed on the shelves but I had no idea what to do with it. Nicole is now obsessed with seaweed and has developed some amazing dishes, including the Seaweed Consomme in Magic Soup. This year seems to be the year of kale, buckwheat and fermented foods. Watch this space… and try the Caldo Verde, Carrot & Roasted Buckwheat or the Pickled Soup.
I have too many favourites in the book. I discovered Portuguese Chicken and Lemon soup years ago when I first lost weight, and it’s still so satisfying every time we make it. Nicole has really helped me to be more adventurous and add flavours to old favourites; I now love making a dal soup and adding different spices or simmering a whole chicken in aromatic broth. I never used to cook whole chickens, now I never buy chicken breasts!
So while I don’t mind a green juice every now and then, at this time of the year I’d rather go healthy with a cleansing soup like Kitchari or the original Magic Soup, inspired by a trip to Mauritius many years ago when I learned that women there would eat this amazing ‘magic’ soup in the months after having a baby as it was both nutritious and helped them get their shape back. What a great name, I thought, and the seed for Magic Soup was sewn!