It's that time of the year when many of us make resolutions - usually vowing to do better in life than we did last year. Unfortunately, the beginning of each new year is also the time when we realise how many of last year's good resolutions were never fulfilled.
Foremost for most of us are decisions to be fitter and healthier than the year before - walking and exercising more, eating both less and healthier food.
Plans are a great idea, but to have any reasonable hope of success the goals need to be realistic. So rather than set hard and fast goals, especially when it comes to what we eat, why not make incremental changes on what may then be a more long-term path to a healthier diet?
One good step can be more servings of vegetables in our daily or weekly food plan. The World Health Organisation suggests consuming more than 400g of fruit and vegetables a day to improve overall health.
For me, the best thing about vegetables is the range available throughout most of the year, which means we are less likely to get bored with the taste.
I usually decide on what's best daily - choosing what looks freshest at the market or supermarket and using it as a challenge to create something from there.
One of my favourite choices is oven-roasted vegetables, maybe along with some fish or chicken or used with a salad. Almost any vegetable is delicious when roasted - no need for a special recipe. I can recommend chopped roasted vegetables (although perhaps not root vegetables) combined with the pasta of your choice
Vegetables are also delicious stir fried with just a little olive oil. But don't stop at just a stir-fry. I like to encase them in a pastry crust in what I have nicknamed Stir-fry Pie.
Either make your own pastry crust or buy frozen puff pastry sheets (there are lower-fat options available if the new year resolution extends that far). Filo pastry is good too and beautiful to behold when cooked, if you can find it and have the time to layer it sheet-by sheet to form the crust. Any leftover pastry can be stored and used for a delicious fruit pie at a later date.
The choice of vegetables can be pretty much left to whatever looks good in the market, although there are a few staples I prefer to include, such as onions, capsicums, zucchini and mushrooms.
Simply chop them up, season them to taste and cook in the wok in olive oil. Adding some cheese can be good, such as small chunks of feta throughout the mix, while a pinch of chilli flakes gives the pie a bit of an edge.
The pie is good served hot, and leftovers can be kept in the fridge and served cold the next day.
VEGETABLE STIR-FRY PIE
- 3 Tbs olive oil plus extra if using filo pastry
- 1 large red onion cut into wedges
- 200g pumpkin finely sliced
- 1 zucchini
- 1 red capsicum
- 1 orange capsicum
- 1 medium sized eggplant
- 200g mini tomatoes
- 250g mushrooms, sliced
- A handful of fresh spinach leaves
- 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves or 1 tsp dried mixed herbs
- 100g feta cheese (optional)
- Pinch of chilli flakes (optional)
- Sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pack store-bought filo pastry sheets or puff pastry sheets
- Preheat oven to 170 deg C.
- Pour olive oil into a large wok. Add the onion wedges and pumpkin slices.
- Roughly chop the zucchini, capsicums, eggplant, tomatoes and mushrooms and add to the wok. Toss all the vegetables together to coat with the olive oil. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently for about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and allow the vegetable mixture to slowly cook through, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes.
- Stir in the spinach leaves, herbs, feta cheese and chilli flakes (if using), season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
- Brush the bottom and sides of a 23cm pie dish with melted butter or olive oil, and line the dish with 8 to 10 sheets of filo pastry, brushing each layer with olive oil before layering the next sheet. If using puff pastry line the bottom and sides of the pie dish.
- Place the cooled cooked vegetable mix into the pie shell and cover the top with pastry , layering filo sheets as before. Trim the overhanging pastry from around the edges. Brush the top with olive oil.
- Cook in the pre-heated oven for about 35 minutes, checking occasionally to see that the pastry is browning well but not burning.
- Serve with a green salad if desired.
Serves 6 to 8
Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.