Monday, 30 November 2015

Recipe: Lemony Lentil Soup

Since changing up my diet, reading cookery books and food blogs has become part of my daily routine.  Some of my favourite blogs of the moment are The Full Helping, Oh My Veggies and Cookie and Kate.  One of my favourite books which I've pulled many of my favourite recipes from is A Modern Way to Eat by Anna Jones.

A Modern Way to Eat is a vegetarian recipe book with many of the recipes naturally being vegan or can be easily adapted to being vegan friendly.  If you are looking for an amazingly easy to make but really tasty dinner, I recommend trying Anna's Tomato and Coconut Cassoulet *drool*.  

One of the first recipes that caught my eye was the Lemony Lentil Soup with Crispy Kale.  Coming from a small town in Ayrshire, Scotland, I was raised on lentil soup.  I'm sure most Scots will proclaim that either their mum or grannies lentil soup is the best...but honestly Alison Carr's lentil soup beats all others ;).  I was interested to see how adding lemon to red lentil soup would work so eagerly tried it. I've shared the recipe from Anna's website below.


A splash of olive of rapeseed oil
1 leek washed, trimmed and finely sliced
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons of ground cumin
2 teaspoons of mustard seeds
2-3 lemons
250g red split lentils
1 veg stock cube
4 handfuls of kale, washed, trimmed and shredded

To Serve
Yoghurt stirred with a little sea salt

Get a large pan on the heat.  Add a little oil and turn the heat to medium.  Add the leek and fry for a couple of minutes until it has softened and smells sweet then add the spices and fry for another couple of minutes.  Squeeze in the juice of one lemon and stir around to lift the spices from the bottom of the pan.

Next, add the lentils, 1.5 litres of water and the stock cube and allow to bubble away for 25-30 minutes until the lentils have cooked and the soup has thickened.

Turn of the heat and if you like, blitz the whole lot to a thin dhal consistency, then squeeze in the juice of the other two lemons, tasting as you go to make sure it doesn't get too lemony.  It may seem like a lot, but you really want the lemony tang to come through.

Just before you're about to serve, saute the kale in a little olive oil until it slightly softens but begins to crisp at the edges.

Ladle into bowls and top with the salted yoghurt and crispy kale.

This soup is delicious.  The lemon juice makes it taste fresh and light which is helped by blitzing the soup in a blender making it quite thin in consistency.  As you can see in the photographs above, I haven't made the crispy kale.  I make this soup to take to work for lunch and it's easier to just take the soup in a flask without bringing along a bag of crispy kale.  However, if you're eating this at home...MAKE THE KALE. It's beautiful.

I have recently became addicted to Food Matters TV and love finding out more about what is in my food and what health benefits particular ingredients promote and this soup is packed with health promoting ingredients:

Turmeric - I've been introducing more and more turmeric into my diet.  It has a high amount of beautiful anti-inflammatory properties and has a powerful antioxidant effect along with a whole host of other health benefits (google it, you'll be amazed).  Basically, include more turmeric in your diet.

Red Lentils - I love lentils and probably eat them in some form every day.  Red lentils are low in calories but high in nutrition.  They are a good source of protein and iron, help lower cholesterol, promote heart and digestive health and are an excellent source of slow-releasing energy.

Kale - It's the most nutrient dense food on the planet! Kale is full of vitamins and minerals like Vitamin C + K, magnesium, calcium, beta-carotene and antioxidants.  

If you're looking for a new soup to try for lunch, I highly recommend trying this! I would love to know what some of your favourite lunch ideas are - I always struggle to think of creative lunches!

Love Nicola

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Yoga & I: A Lesson in Cultivating Compassion, Gratitude and Empowerment

If you had told me a year ago I was heading towards becoming a cruelty free, non-meat eating, yoga practicing person I would probably of laughed in your face.  What a difference a year makes.  This summer, while on holiday with my family I got a message from a friend asking if I wanted to go to a free yoga class at a studio that had recently opened in Glasgow. The class was only 30 minutes long and so I agreed, having done very little yoga previously (mainly via You Tube in the comfort of my own home).

Fast forward to the day of our class and my friend had to cancel last minute (Don't feel bad if you're reading this Helen!).  It's important to note that at this point, anxiety and panic attacks ruled my life alongside a daily battle with serious body confidence issues.  I instantly spiralled into a pit of self doubt: there was no way I could walk into a room where I didn't know anyone and take a class that was completely foreign to me.  I spent the whole day in a state of panic.  It would of been the easiest thing to just hit the cancel button however I couldn't escape a feeling in the pit of my stomach that I needed to go this class. I somehow forced myself to listen to my gut  and found myself outside of the studio with my boyfriend practically pushing me out of the car.   Once inside I couldn't even bring myself to speak to anyone, my voice just disappeared.  I hid at the back of the class and I practically ran out of the room as soon as the class was over however...I FREAKING WENT AND FINISHED!

Almost five months on, I am now a member of the most beautiful yoga studio The Kali Collective  and I'm practicing yoga almost daily.  I've attended a six week mindfulness course which has introduced me to meditation, taken various workshops that have really expanded my mind and completed a 30 day yoga challenge.  It hasn't been easy and I've cried on my mat more than times that I can count but the differences I've felt both in my body and my mind have made it all worth it.  Here are the three main things I've learned through my practice:

Compassion: I've changed a huge amount in the last year and this can be contributed greatly towards my decision to live a more compassionate lifestyle.  However, I would often forget to practice compassion towards myself.  Being mindful of how I talk to and about myself has really opened my eyes to how destructive I could be towards my own self worth.  This in turn has huge implications towards my panic and anxiety.  Think about how you speak to yourself - would you talk that way to  or about other people?  I know I never would.  Replace thoughts like 'I can't do this' (which I'm the queen of) with the acknowledgment that trying something new can be scary or difficult and think 'I'm going give this my best try' and if you don't succeed at first, that's ok, you tried your hardest.

Yoga has given me the time and space to start peeling away the layers of self doubt and anxiety that prevented me from discovering my true potential; practicing self compassion has been key to this.

Gratitude: In the first week of my mindfulness class, we focussed on gratitude.  I started writing a gratitude journal which has really helped begin to change my mind set.  It can be the tiniest of things, (like today I am grateful for my huge Vego bar) however learning to appreciate the gifts that life has given me has allowed me to open my mind towards the possibilities that I may have previously let slip by due to fear.  Practicing gratitude has equipped me to better deal with the shitty situations life throws up. An example is how I deal with panic attacks.  With each panic attack (which are getting fewer and fewer) I get better equipped at dealing with them.  I'm given the opportunity to put what I've learned into practice.

Leading on from this, yoga has taught me to be grateful for my body.  I've struggled greatly with body confidence issues.  I was diagnosed with PCOS this year and for a long time felt like my body was working against me, I'm a serial yo-yo dieter, my weight fluctuates up and down, dragging my self confidence along with it.  I've found that with each new pose I learn, each time I twist a little deeper or stretch a little further, my focus shifts from how my body looks to what it can do.  The more consistent I am with my practice, the more my body craves movement.  

Empowerment: This has come from practicing at The Kali Collective whose ethos is 'empowered movement'.  Yoga has empowered me to explore my mind/body connection.  It still amazes me that I can twist my body into a particular pose which in turn invokes an emotional response (I cry practically every time I'm in pigeon pose for example).  Yoga has given me the chance to take back control of my body and thoughts.  My practice gives me the time to take a moment to work on myself which can be scary, exciting and empowering all at the same time.  I vividly remember the first time I  was taught camel pose. I had the most intense thumping in my chest which for the longest time was the first signal of a panic attack.  However, I had created this feeling through movement and it felt amazing. I finally felt like I was regaining control of my body again and for that, I will be forever grateful.

So here I am, five months later crying while I write this for the girl at her first yoga class, who felt  completely lost and overwhelmed by a ball of panic. If only she could see herself as I do now, one of the bravest people I know.    

Lots of Love