Nachos (not so) grande

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I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. Actually, this is a lie. I don’t make resolutions out loud. In my head, however, I spend much of January chanting the mantra: must do better, must do better.

I guess you know the good times have to stop rolling when you are rudely awakened from your night sweat sleep by a cascading crash which you assume are the binmen emptying the bins from the pub next door but is in fact emanating from your very own recycling bin of shame. Or when those red welts appear on your love handles caused by the jeans you used to wear only on ‘fat days’. All that fun you had in December has come at a hefty price and now it’s payback time. (When I say you I do, of course, mean me.)

But does the repayment have to be in a lump sum? Is it really sensible to give up everything that is fun in life for the entirety of January, already the clear favourite in the most miserable month of the year stakes? Doesn’t short term but extreme exclusion – be it for dryathlon, veganuary, carbannihilate, dairytox (I might’ve made up the last two) – simply feed into our unhealthy binge-purge culture, with our yo-yo approach to diets, drinking and the gym? What’s the point of giving up booze/meat/dairy/wheat etc for a month if it means, come February 1st, you dive headfirst into a XL stuffed crust meat feast washed down with a gallon or two of merlot?

If it works for you and you have the self-control not to fall horrendously off the wagon in a month’s time, that’s fine, although I still think the #veganuary thing is absurd – surely veganism is for life not just for post-Christmas? (I had my first ever run in on Twitter this week when I had a pop at this latest fad and was informed by a disgruntled vegan, in a manner that wasn’t at all passive-aggressive, that my children would already be suffering with atherosclerosis, a precursor to heart disease. Which was nice.)

I personally prefer a lazier slower, yet more sustainable approach – the monthly repayment as opposed to the lump sum. Cutting down, cutting back but definitely no cutting out (with the exception of that homemade Baileys – that absolutely has to go). Because deprivation never made anyone happy, and happiness is the cornerstone of good health, no?

Middle Eastern nachos with crispy chickpeas and chopped salad

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I guarantee you will not feel deprived with this healthy take on a Tex-Mex favourite. It is basically a deconstructed Middle Eastern fattoush style salad masquerading as junk food and I would happily eat this over the lardy original any day. It’s as good as a light lunch to share as it is for snacking in front of a film and you can pimp it up as you please, by adding dollops of houmous, toasted pine nuts, slices of avocado or these chilli beans for example. Just don’t tell anyone it’s good for them.

The idea is not mine – there are various versions of this on the internet – but the recipes are.

Serves 2-3 as a light lunch, 4 as nibbles

  • 5-6 pitta breads (I used wholemeal cos, you know, my body is a temple)
  • 1 400g tin chickpeas
  • 1 heaped tsp ground cumin
  • 1 heaped tsp ras el hanout or 1/2 of chilli powder
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 8cm piece of cucumber, finely diced
  • 150g tomatoes (I like baby plums), finely diced
  • 100g jarred red peppers, finely chopped, or use fresh
  • 1/2-1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped (best to test how hot it is before adding as they vary enormously)
  • 1/2 small bunch flat leaf parsely, finely chopped
  • 1/2 small bunch mint, finely chopped
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tsp sumac (optional but adds lemony zing)
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil
  • to serve: 2 tbsp Greek yogurt mixed with 1 tsp tahini, a squeeze of lemon and a pinch of salt; feta cheese
  1. Preheat your oven to 190°C (fan). Drain and rinse the chickpeas then dry them well in kitchen towel (this will stop them from exploding all over your oven). Place them in a baking tray, sprinkle with the cumin, ras el hanout and a pinch of salt, then drizzle over a little olive oil. Toss together to coat, then bake in the oven for 30 mins or until golden and crispy.
  2. Cut your pittas into tortilla chip style triangles, then separate the two layers and place on a large baking sheet. Brush each piece with a little olive oil (you can sprinkle over a little salt and/or smoked paprika too if you feel that way inclined). Bake in the oven alongside the chickpeas for about 5 minutes until crisp (your layers may be of different thickness so the thinner ones may need to be removed before the others are done).
  3. Put the chopped onion in a mixing bowl with the lemon juice and a pinch of salt, stir and leave for 10 minutes – the acid will take the harsh edge off the onion. Then add the cucumber, tomatoes, peppers, chilli, herbs, sumac and a grinding of black pepper. Stir then taste. Add a little more salt or lemon if necessary.
  4. When cool, tip the pitta chips onto a wide plate, spoon over the chopped salad (you may not need all of it), scatter over the crispy chickpeas, drizzle with yogurt, crumble over the feta and remember to share with your family.

 

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