Energy food

We’ve had a great Christmas, possibly eaten and drunk a little too much, and now everyone is talking about dieting, fasting and New Years resolutions.

But January can be a cold and dark month, and feeling pressured to cut back on everything doesn’t make it any easier. So instead of diet talk, why not put some colour into our dishes by using seasonal fruits and vegetables. Let’s look at some bright zingy recipes and ingredients to perk up our metabolism and give us some energy for positive thinking. Planning a holiday to the sun later in the year can also help, but is a little more expensive than brightening up our shopping trolley.

It may not appear to be the most exciting month for fruit and vegetables, and most of us will only regularly use two or three of them. But there are some great ones, full of vitamins and antioxidants, which are ideal after Christmas and New Year festivities!

A quick reminder: Beetroot, carrots, celery, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, pumpkins, marrow, squash, chicory, turnip, parsnip, leek and potatoes, apples, clementines, cranberries, mangoes, pomegranates, pears and pineapples. Plenty of colour in there!

So, if you feel the need for a New Years resolution, challenge yourself to trying at least one new seasonal vegetable recipe per week. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Beetroots are becoming more popular. I am not talking about the pickled variety found in jars, they are best bought fresh and can be roasted, boiled or steamed (recipe). Not only are they delicious, but they contain betaine, a substance that relaxes the mind and is used to treat depression. What better for January!


They go really well as a side dish with any meat, and are heavenly in a winter salad with soft crumbly goats cheese, pears and roasted almonds, with a honey and white balsamic vinegar vinaigrette. And if that doesn’t tempt you, try beetroot brownies, half the fat of regular brownies but still with that wonderful chocolate kick (recipe).

Pomegranates have very high antioxidant properties and are rich in potassium, vitamin C, niacin and fibre. Their vibrant colour and fragrant, sweet and sharp juice adds excitement to savoury and sweet dishes. Try it with roasted carrots, goats cheese, and chickpeas with an orange juice vinaigrette, or stirred into couscous with freshly chopped herbs and citrus vinaigrette.

Brighten and lighten up your mashed potato by adding steamed butternut squash:

500g potatoes, 500g butternut squash, peeled and cut into 2.5cm dice, steam for 15-17 mins until tender, mash with butter, salt and pepper. You can spice it up by adding one finely chopped, deseeded red chili. Serves 4.

Or replace potatoes with roasted parsnips. For centuries, parsnips were a nutritious staple food in Europe. Their popularity declined following the introduction of potatoes and continued as sugar became more readily available. Before sugar was widely available, parsnips were used to sweeten dishes such as cakes and jams. Don’t be put off, carrot cake hasn’t put us off carrots! In ancient times, parsnips and carrots were often referred to by the same name, ‘pastinaca’.

Roasted parsnips (supermarket tip: parsnips are called ‘panais’ in French and ‘pastinake’ in German.) To prepare: peel, top and tail, cut into quarters, bring to the boil in salted water, boil for 2-3 mins, then drain and tip into roasting tray, toss in a little olive oil and roast in hot oven (200°C) for 25-30 mins or until golden and crispy. Divine.

So many options! If you have any colourful January recipes, we’d love to hear from you. Enjoy!

Roasted beetroots  

  • 4 tennis ball size fresh beetroots            
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • A good sprinkle of sea salt
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme


  • Preheat oven 200°C
  • Carefully wash beetroots under cold water and pat dry. Place in a large roasting tin, roll in the oil and sprinkle with salt and thyme.
  • Bake in preheated oven for 40-45 mins or until soft but not shrunken. Leave to cool and rub away skin with a piece of kitchen paper.

Beetroot brownies

  • 500g whole raw beetroots (or 400g steamed vacuum packed)           
  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 200g plain chocolate (70%)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 100g plain flour
  • 25g cocoa powder


  • If using raw beetroot, wear a pair of rubber gloves to stop your hands from staining and peel  beetroots leaving 400g flesh.
  • Roughly chop and put in a large bowl, add a splash of water, cover with cling film and microwave on high for 12 mins until tender.
  • Preheat oven 180°C/160°C Fan. While the beetroot cooks, grease and line a 20 x 30 brownie tin. Roughly chop chocolate and cut butter into cubes.
  • Tip cooked beetroots into a sieve, drain off any excess liquid and put in a food processor with the chocolate, butter and vanilla. The heat from the beetroot will melt the butter and chocolate. If using precooked steamed beetroot, gently heat the butter and chocolate until melted and carry on with the recipe. Zap the mixture until it is as smooth as possible.
  • Put the eggs and sugar in a large bowl and whisk until thick, pale and foamy, around 2 minutes. Spoon the beetroot mixture into the bowl and fold together using a large metal spoon. Try to not to knock out too much of the air. Sift in the flour and cocoa and again gently fold in to make a smooth batter.
  • Pour into your tin and bake for 25-30 mins until risen all over and firm. Cool completely in the tin, then cut into squares.

Text and photos by Alison Korter-Lacki, January 2013

Isn’t it nice to know that food can help beat the blues, whether it be seasonal blues or expat blues? The right food can help you glow too! And why not set a zen white table when serving your colourful food?


  1. Beetroot brownies, what an interesting idea! I think this is a great idea, I’ll have to give it a try sometime.


  2. Becky Gollackner says:

    Roasted Parsnips are also really good coated in parmensan cheese!


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