seasonal veg shredded with feta and mint leaves

By Georgie Hayden

A few years ago, some of Jamie’s food team were privileged enough to escape the winter blues and go with Jamie to the US to film the second series of Jamie’s Food Revolution, part of his campaign to get Americans eating better.

Now, I love our UK seasons and snuggling up under a big blanket in the winter, but January always feels like a bit of a battle – skint, dry and grey. So, when the opportunity arose to escape for a little Californian sunshine, there was no way I was passing it up, and it was a truly amazing experience. The filming was epic, but pretending to be local and living the California life for a month was just as fun. I returned feeling refreshed and healthier. Sure, the sunshine helped, but it wasn’t dead hot, and I put it mainly down to the food and general LA attitude. I started running! And snacking on nuts and seeds!

Ever since that trip, even if my diet goes a little haywire over the course of the year, I still like to re-centre and keep January as my “start as you mean to go on” month. And I use my LA experience to inspire me. This January I have taken up swimming and love it, and I’ve gone back to some of the recipes we cooked up while over there. Let me share some of my favourites with you:

Homemade trail mix

When I say homemade it’s for a good reason – the pre-packed stuff is nice but, as with premade many things, it’s often loaded with sugar. However, making your own healthier version is so simple! Literally mix together all your favourite nuts, seeds and dried fruits in a large bag and carry a small sandwich bag of it with you for when you are feeling a little peckish. You’ll discover lots of lovely flavour combos you never normally eat. For example, I would never usually snack on walnuts, but teamed up with a little bit of date and a pumpkin seed… deliciousness! And if you want to make it a bit of a treat, try adding little chunks of dark chocolate.

Shaved salads

The key here is seasonal ingredients and amazing dressings – be adventurous and make them fun. If you have a food processor with a slicing attachment, that’s the easiest way to finely slice a lot of veg quickly. Alternatively use a mandolin (carefully!), or even a good box grater. Try combinations such as shaved carrot with an orange dressing and toasted spices; or shaved mixed beetroot with lots of chopped soft herbs, horseradish and lemon juice. Jamie has a great version of the latter here.

I love shaving whatever root veg I have at home to make a “green goddess” dressing for a healthy coleslaw-style salad. Just blitz up avocado, lime juice, fat-free yoghurt, coriander, chilli and a little extra virgin olive oil for a creamy green dressing. Massage it into your sliced veg and top with toasted seeds and a little crumble of feta. Dreamy! Perfect as a side or a lighter meal.

Chopped salads

I know we’re still on salads, but I’d never encountered chopped salads until I went to the States and now I cant get enough of them. They’re a regular mid-week dinner in our house, always hearty enough to be a main meal (if you want) but still delicious and, with the right stuff, healthy. All you need is a large wooden board and a chef’s knife (anything smaller and you really will be there for ever). Now, the key thing here is texture and flavour combos: I like to make sure there is a lettuce leaf or two in there, some crunchy veg, some soft herbs, a crumbling of cheese, even a bit of protein works – remember to experiment! Lots of things work, and not just leaves. Try vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, fish, meat, cheese and even different croutons – things like toasted pitta bread and toasted ciabatta. Then, with a bit of patience, just chop through everything on the board. Keep going so you have a mixture of sizes, mixing everything together constantly as you go. Dress the veg with a lemon and extra virgin olive oil, or whatever dressing you like, and season well. My favourite combo? Cos lettuce, cucumber, cress, apple, blue cheese and crispy bacon. Hit the lemon dressing with a little Dijon mustard and you’re onto a good thing!

Frozen yoghurt

Not just an LA phenomenon anymore, frozen yoghurt is everywhere, and with good reason! It’s delicious and light if you avoid the sugar-laden ones with all the sweet toppings. To make your own, use a fat-free yoghurt as the base and sweeten it naturally with a little honey or agave syrup. Give it a churn and keep it in the freezer for when you fancy something sweet. I like to top mine with chopped fresh fruits and toasted nuts, even a little shaving of dark chocolate. And you can always play around with the flavours of the base – bananas freeze really well and are great with yoghurt, as are mixed berries.

So there you have it, a few January food tips, inspired by our friends across the pond to get you eating a bit better this year. And remember, never leave the house without your pouch of trail mix.