The smallest tweaks can have the biggest effects. Sprinkle these spices on your food to add years to your life

Cayenne

Health benefit Packed with vitamin A, which crushes winter viruses

Add it to Wintry one-pot wonders

Try this recipe:

Hot stuff
Refuelling doesn’t have to be a flavour-free affair, and this chilli proves it. It’ll give you the perfect blend of carbohydrates and protein and is so tasty you’ll be back for seconds – and why not? It means more muscle building protein and tissue-repairing nutrients for your efforts. Plus making it in these quantities will save you valuable time. You can eat one portion, then freeze the rest to make 5, instant protein-rich meals that you can shove in the microwave as soon as you get in.

 

What’s so good about it?
It’s muscle on a plate. Each serving gives 28g of protein with just 4g of saturated fat. The beans buff up its carb content to 37g per serving and you’ll also get 11g of fibre that will fi ll you up for longer. The flavour-bolstering ingredient is the dark chocolate, which a study in Nature found to be extremely rich in the antioxidants that’ll gobble up any post-workout stiffness. Plus, the chilli and cayenne pepper will boost your metabolism. Bring on the heat…

What you’ll need
■ 500g lean minced beef
■ 1 onion, diced
■ 3 cloves garlic, crushed
■ 2 cans kidney beans, rinsed and drained
■ 2 cans chopped tomatoes
■ 300ml chicken stock
■ ½ tsp salt
■ ½ tsp pepper
■ 1 tsp chilli powder
■ ½ tsp cumin
■ Pinch of cayenne pepper
■ Pinch of cinnamon
■ 30g dark chocolate, broken up

 

How to make the chilli
Brown the beef in a non-stick frying pan over a medium-high heat (A). Remove it with a slotted spoon – don’t let any of that precious protein slip through the cracks now – and set it aside (B). Leave a little fat in the pan – don’t worry, it’ll be spread over 6 meals so it won’t instantly relocate to your middle. Sweat the onion and garlic in the fat but turn the heat down so it doesn’t brown (C). Whack the browned beef, onions and garlic, beans, tomatoes, chicken stock, spices and chocolate into a large deep pot (D). You could plonk yourself in front of the TV for an hour as it needs to simmer on low heat. Alternatively get your trainers on and head out for a predinner dash around the block. Either way you’re going to have a week’s worth of muscle meals waiting for you to tuck into once that 60 minutes is up. Makes 6 servings.

 

Chilli

Health benefit Reduces your diabetes risk

Add it to Curries

Try this recipe:

Hardcore prawn

Prawns – they seemed like a good idea when you bought them but now their little beady eyes are challenging you to do something creative with them. All too often they end up in a calorie-heavy sweet-and-sour sauce served with a nutritionally bereft carb such as white rice.

But the little decapods deserve better – they may be small in size but they’ve got a large nutritional punch that’ll keep you lean. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutritionfound when people ate 300g a day of the pink protein their levels of triglycerides (a form in which fat is carried in the blood) decreased by 13%. It pays to be shellfish.

Ingredients (serves 2)

2 tsp oil 
¼ tsp chilli flakes 
A handful of red and green pepper, chopped 
¼ medium onion, diced 
1 tbsp orange juice 
2 tbsp jalapeño slices 
1 tbsp oyster sauce 
300g frozen or fresh prawns

Method

If you’re digging out a pack of frozen prawns from the back of the fridge, make sure they’re properly defrosted or it’ll be a seafood feast you’ll be seeing again. Defrost them in the fridge overnight or put them in a sealable bag in a bowl of cold water for an hour and a half.

Once that’s done, heat the oil in a pan or wok and add the chilli flakes. After a minute chuck in all the other ingredients bar the prawns and cook for two to three minutes, stirring frequently. Add the prawns to the fiery feast and cook for another couple of minutes, then you’re done. Accompany with some brown rice.

 

What’s the benefit?

This dish will give you a whopping 36g of protein per serving but just 12g of ab-concealing carbs, making it the ideal muscle-building graze for those looking to keep lean. You’ll also get 25% of your RDA of omega-3 fatty acids from the prawns and a good helping of chillies – both of which are proven to help you burn fat. That’s a solid serving of prawn a la brawn.

 

Smoked paprika

Health benefit Vitamin C aids iron absorption from meat

Add it to Roasts and paellas

Try this recipe:

Hearty paella: the antidote to gloomy days

Try this energy-boosting, affordable powerhouse of seafood

The ingredients

Olive oil
1 Spanish onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
100g piquillo peppers (from a jar)
450g paella rice, rinsed in cold water
900ml fish stock (3 cubes dissolved in 900ml water)
200ml dry white wine
1 pinch of saffron powder
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
400g bag of frozen seafood
2 monkfish tails, chopped into 2.5cm cubes
125g frozen peas
100g cooked North Atlantic prawns (in shells)

The method

Heat some olive oil in a large frying pan and add your onion and garlic. Cook gently for 10 minutes, or until soft. Gypsy Kings soundtrack recommended throughout.
 
Throw in the peppers and rice, then add the stock, wine and saffron. Season and bring to the boil – think Ibiza in August – then simmer for 10 minutes. 
 
Add the paprika, seafood, monkfish and peas and simmer for a further 5-10 minutes – or until the rice is just cooked, almost all the liquid has been absorbed and the seafood is as hot as Penélope Cruz.
 
4 Arrange the prawns on top of the paella, cover with a lid or foil and cook gently for a few more minutes, or until they are piping hot. Remove the pan from the heat and leave covered to stand for 5 minutes. Serve immediately with crusty bread. 
 
Preparation Time: 25 minutes
Cooking Time: 45 minutes
Serves: 6

The stats

Nutritional information per serving
Calories: 474kcal 
Fat: 11.9g (2.8g sat fat)
Carbs: 58g
Protein: 22.1g
Fibre: 2.3g

 

Cardamom

Health benefit Keeps your teeth and gums healthy

Add it to Rice, to enhance the flavour

Try this recipe: Korma

Is it chicken tonight?

On a stick

Soak bamboo skewers in water for 30 minutes so they don’t burn while cooking, marinade the chicken for the same amount of time, at least, with the following:

Satay 3 tablespoons of light coconut milk, 3 tablespoons of peanut butter, 1 teaspoon of curry powder, 1 teaspoon of brown sugar, 1 crushed clove of garlic, a drop of sesame oil, salt and white pepper

Tandoori 1 tablespoon of your favourite Indian curry paste, juice of 1 lemon, 1 onion pureed (use a blender), 1 clove of garlic & a knob of ginger finely chopped, 1 individual container of plain yogurt, 1 teaspoon of each; paprika, turmeric, garam masala, salt and pepper. Blend everything in a food processor or blender until smooth, pour over cubed chunks of chicken breast and marinade for at least 30 minutes but preferably overnight. 

Souvlaki Whisk together juice of one lemon, 1 tablespoon white wine, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 tablespoon honey, 1 clove minced garlic, 1 teaspoon oregano, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of freshly cracked black pepper.  

Yaki Tori 1 tablespoon of brown sugar, 2 tablespoons sake, 3 tablespoons mirin, 3 tablespoon soy sauce.  Mix together, pour over chicken and marinade. Chop 1 small leek into ½ long pieces. Intersperse between chicken chunks on skewer.

Chimichurri 2 handfuls of flat leaf parsley, 1 tablespoon of fresh thyme leaves, 4 cloves of garlic, 1 teaspoon of sweet paprika, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 2 glugs of red wine vinegar.  Mix well in a food process or blender and slowly add 4 big glugs of olive oil. 

Thread on to skewers and grill on the barbeque until cooked through.  Keep back a bit of marinade and instead of putting it on the raw chicken, boil until reduced and use as a dipping sauce.

Toppings

Bake a chicken breast that has been seasoned with salt and pepper at gas mark 5 and top with:

Greek Sprinkle with feta cheese, sliced kalamata olives, finely sliced red onions and peeled, deseeded chopped tomato. Top chicken breast and return to the oven until the cheese is warmed through.

Stroganoff Slice crimini (brown) mushrooms, sprinkle with salt and fry them in some Olivio margarine with chopped garlic and onion until soft. Add enough light sour cream to make a sauce, and add black pepper, a pinch of dried dill and a splash of cognac. 

Clubhouse Halfway through cooking the chicken wrap it in bacon and return to the oven. Top with chopped turkey breast and ham slices from the deli counter, sliced tomato and rocket. Drizzle with aioli (garlic mayonnaise) and dig in. 

Tex Mex Mix equal parts of your favourite salsa and chicken stock (made from a bouillon cube is fine)and pour over the raw chicken. Add layers of sliced jalapeño pepper and bake. 5 minutes before the chicken is done top with grated Monterrey Jack cheese and return to the oven. Garnish with chopped avocado, black olives, coriander leaves and light sour cream.

Croque Monsieur Just before the chicken is done slather in good quality Dijon mustard, slices of ham and top with Swiss cheese. Return to the oven until the cheese melts. 

Neptune Bake the chicken breast in equal parts white wine and chicken stock, spooning the juices over the meat a few times while it cooks. Top with crab meat, a steamed asparagus spear and chopped spring onion. Drizzle with lemon juice if you’re being good or melted butter if you’re not.

Fillings

Sandwich a skinless, boneless chicken breast between 2 pieces of cling film and using a meat tenderizer or rolling pin beat the chicken breast until flat. Then stuff with: 

Nutty Herb Finely chop a small handful of salted peanuts and smoked almonds, mix with a handful of finely chopped parsley and chives. Sprinkle the mixture over the chicken breast and wrap up jelly roll style securing with tooth picks.  Place chicken seam side down in deep baking tray, pour over a wineglass of chicken stock and dot with Olivio margarine. Bake in a gas mark 5 oven for 40 minutes.  Make gravy from the chicken stock by adding 1 tablespoon of flour and a glug of milk and boiling it in a sauce pan, whisking until thick.

Herb Goat Cheese and Proscuitto
 Spread the chicken breast with soft goat cheese such as Boursin to the edge. Roll up and wrap in proscuitto securing with tooth picks. Wet greaseproof paper, wring out and cover the chicken with it. Bake for 20 minutes in a gas mark 5 oven, remove greaseproof paper and bake a further 20 minutes.

Sausage and Apple Remove the casing from 1 pork sausage (for every chicken breast), peel, core and chop one small apple, finely chop one onion and one stalk of celery and fry in one tablespoon of olive oil. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and 2 sage leaves finely chopped.  Stuff the chicken breast securing with tooth picks, dip in a beaten egg, cover in breadcrumbs and bake 40 minutes in a gas mark 5 oven.  

Tuscan Chop 4 artichoke hearts, 4 sun dried tomatoes that have been packed in oil, add a handful of roasted pine nuts and mix together with a sprinkle of salt. Spread over the chicken breast, roll up securing with tooth picks and place in a baking tray. Bake 35 minutes in a gas mark 5 oven. Sprinkle with grated parmesan, bake for another 5 minutes.

NB Don’t forget to remove the toothpicks before serving.

Kitchen Confidential Bake the stuffed roll ups wrapped in the skin off the chicken breast to keep it juicy and discard before serving saving yourself the calories.

Sauces

Finely chop one onion, and 3 cloves of garlic and fry in a little margarine and olive oil. Cut a chicken breast into bite size pieces and add to the onion mixture. Scrape off the coconut cream that settles at the top of a can of light coconut milk and add to the onion mixture (hold back the coconut water/milk for later). Then add the following:

Red Curry Add 2 tablespoons of Thai red curry paste and a knob of peeled, sliced ginger and fry in the chicken coconut mixture for 2 minutes. Add a wine glass full of chicken stock (made from a bouillon cube is fine), the remaining coconut milk, 2 tablespoons of fish sauce, 1 tablespoon of brown sugar. Simmer for 5 minutes and add; a sliced red chilli, a handful of trimmed sugar snap peas, a tin of drained lychees and 4 kaffir lime leaves.  Simmer 4 more minutes, and garnish with some chilli slices or a handful of Thai sweet basil leaves.

Korma Add to the onion mixture a knob of peeled, sliced ginger and fry in the chicken coconut mixture for 2 minutes. Add a teaspoon of each of the following ground spices; turmeric, cumin, cinnamon, cardamom, paprika, chilli flakes, pepper and salt cooking over medium heat for about 3 minutes. Add 1 individual container of plain yogurt, a handful of chopped cashew nuts and 4 tablespoons of tomato sauce.  Simmer for a further 5 minutes and garnish with coriander leaves and sliced almonds.

Lhaska Add 1 tablespoon of Thai yellow curry paste, 1 tablespoon of curry powder, a knob of peeled, sliced ginger and a stalk of bruised lemongrass to the chicken coconut mixture.  Add 2 wine glasses full of chicken stock (made from a bullion cube is fine), the remaining coconut milk plus another can, 2 tablespoons of fish sauce, 1 tablespoon of brown sugar and the juice of half a lime and simmer 5 minutes.  Add 2 handfuls of shelled prawns and the meat of one crab and simmer on low heat for 5 minutes.  Boil 250g of rice noodles according to the package’s instructions, drain and add to the lhaska sauce.  

Vanilla Mushroom Slice 3 large handfuls of assorted mushrooms (shitake, crimini, oyster, portabella) sprinkle with salt and fry them in some Olivio margarine over medium heat with an additional 4 cloves of chopped garlic until mushroom are soft and have released their juices.  Add the mushrooms to the chicken coconut mixture and add; 1 teaspoon of vanilla, 3 tablespoons of vodka, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, 1 teaspoon of lemon zest, 1 teaspoon of chilli flakes, 1 teaspoon of salt and the rest of the coconut milk. Simmer over medium heat until the chicken is cooked through. 

Stir fries

Chop up 4 chicken breasts and marinade in 4 tablespoons of sherry or Chinese cooking wine, 4 tablespoons of soy sauce and a wine glass of water for 20 minutes.  Drain the marinade and cover the chicken pieces in 1 tablespoon of each; sesame oil, arrowroot powder and flour. In a wok over high heat add a glug of oil and then add to one of the following:

Broccoli Hoisin Fry 2 cloves of chopped garlic and the chicken in the oil until they begin to turn golden brown.  Add three handfuls of small broccoli florets and 6 tablespoons of chicken broth and fry on high heat for 3 minutes until the broccoli begins to soften. Add 2 tablespoons of hoisin sauce and 2 tablespoons oyster sauce and fry over high heat until chicken is cooked through. Garnish with 4 chopped spring onions.

Lemon Fry a chopped onion, 2 celery stalks sliced, and one chopped green capsicum.  Stir fry on high heat for 1 minute and add the chicken. Stir in 3 tablespoons of light soy sauce, the juice of half a lemon, a teaspoon of honey and the zest of a lemon. Cook for 3 minutes, until chicken is cooked through and garnish with chilli flakes.

Cashew Fry a chopped onion, 2 cloves of chopped garlic and a knob of peeled, minced ginger.  Add the chicken and fry for 4 minutes.  Then add a thinly sliced carrot and a handful of sliced water chestnuts. Add 2 tablespoons of Chinese cooking wine, 2 tablespoons of light soy sauce and 2 tablespoons of oyster sauce and fry over high heat until the carrot has softened. Add 1 handful of roasted cashew nuts, stir and serve.

Cranberry Fry 2 chopped onions, with a knob of peeled, and minced ginger over medium high heat for 3 minutes. Add the chicken and cook a further 7 minutes. Add 5 tablespoons of cranberry sauce, 5 tablespoons of chicken stock, a cinnamon stick, a pinch of nutmeg, a teaspoon of both salt and black pepper, and a cored and finely sliced apple. Cook for 3 minutes and remove, onions, chicken and apples. Boil the sauced until reduced and thick. Return everything to the pan and reheat while coating mixture with the sauce.

Kitchen Confidential To make a chicken breast easier to slice put it in the freezer until it is firm but not frozen (25 minutes).

 

 

 

 

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