Gut healthy recipes to warm your cockles this winter

Saturday 26th Dec 2020 |

Love Your Gut has shared four comforting and warming, gut healthy recipes, perfect for the colder months

Gut healthy recipes – Greek Style Tomato and Bean Stew

Gut healthy recipes

This is a delicious, one pot, vegetarian dish. It also improves once cooked if left for a while before eating.

This stew contains a glorious mix of vegetables which are known to promote gut health. Eating a diverse range of plant foods increases the variety of beneficial microbes in the gut. Gut microbes are key to supporting many aspects of human health including immune, metabolic and neurological functions. Olive oil can have positive effects on gut microbiota due to the high levels of polyphenols they contain. Bacteria in the gut can transform polyphenols into useful biologically active compounds that influence the body’s immune system and many other aspects of health. Research has shown eating a moderate amount of cheese can increase Bifidobacteria, which are known for their positive health benefits through their metabolic activities[1]

Preparation – 15 min

Cooking time – 30 minutes

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 2 tbsp virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  • 2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 2 x 400g tins butter beans drained and rinsed
  • 300g green beans, ends trimmed
  • juice and zest of half a lemon
  • 150g crumbled feta (leave out feta for vegan dish)
  • 30g pine nuts

Method

Place the onion in a large, wide pan and drizzle with a little olive oil. Sweat the onion for 5 minutes until soft. Add the garlic, spices and herbs, reserving a little of the parsley to finish the dish.

Turn up the heat and add the chopped tomatoes and tomato purée allowing the stew to come up to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir in the butter beans, green beans, lemon zest and lemon juice, and cook for a further 10 minutes. Cover the pan at this stage if you can otherwise stir to ensure the green beans cook through.

Serve the tomato and bean stew in bowls with crumbled feta cheese, pine nuts and a sprinkling of parsley.

Alternative serving suggestion

Any green vegetable can be substituted for the green beans for example, broccoli spears or asparagus.

This dish can be part of a tapas style meal served with bowls of freshly cooked prawns or chicken.

Cooks tips

  1. Use 500g of chopped fresh tomatoes instead of tinned chopped tomatoes.
  2. Any leftovers from this dish can be eaten the following day as the flavours improve over time.

Gut healthy recipes – Simple Red Lentil Dal

Gut healthy recipes

Dal is a staple food of the Indian sub-continent. It is made from lentils that do not need pre-soaking. It is one of the fastest, most delicious and economic meals you can prepare. The beauty of this dish is it can be eaten simply or dressed up with a variety of accompaniments, for a special occasion.

This is a nutritious and sustaining dish that promotes gut health. Lentils are the key ingredient and are rich in fibre and contain a type of carbohydrate known as galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS). Both fibre and GOS promote the growth of a range of beneficial bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract[2] providing a number of benefits including a reduced risk of colorectal[3] and heart disease[4]. Spinach, tomatoes, onion and garlic also contain dietary fibre[5].

Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is widely used as a spice and an ingredient in traditional herbal medicine. The rhizome of ginger has been shown in clinical studies to help relieve gastrointestinal discomforts, nausea and vomiting[6].

Turmeric contains curcumin which has been shown to change the balance in favours the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut over that of pathogenic bacteria[7].

Preparation – 15 min

Cooking time – 30 minutes

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 500g peeled and de-seeded butternut squash (approximately half), cut into 2cm cubes
  • 2 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 5 regular tomatoes (150g) fresh tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 30g fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 fresh, long, mild red chilli, deseeded
  • 225g dried red lentils
  • 100g baby spinach leaves
  • 2 tbsp chopped coriander leaves to serve

Method

Sweat the onion and butternut squash with a little oil for 10 minutes in a covered saucepan or large lidded frying pan. They should begin to caramelise. Add the tomatoes, garlic, ginger, cumin and turmeric. Cut the chilli in half lengthways and finely chop half. Add this to the saucepan. Cut the other half of the chilli into thin strips and reserve to finish the dish.

Add the red lentils and 1 litre of water to the saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat slightly and cook for 20 minutes. Add the spinach, which just needs to wilt for 2 minutes. The dal should be thick and the butternut squash tender.

Add a little oil to a frying pan and quickly sauté the strips of chilli. Serve the dal in bowls scattered with coriander and strips of chilli. Serve with brown rice or flatbread and chutney on the side.  

Alternative serving suggestion

Peas can be added to the dal instead of spinach

Aubergines can be substituted for the butternut squash

Serve as part of a meal with other side dishes such as aubergine curry or chicken curry

Cooks tips

  1. Double the quantity of this recipe so there are extra portions to put in the freezer. Dal defrosts quickly in a microwave and will provide a quick nutritious ready meal.
  2. A simple dal can be made without butternut squash or spinach if time and ingredients are in short supply.
  3. The classic way to dress up a dal is to pour over a tarka just before serving. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a pan and add 2 banana shallots finely sliced, a chopped green chilli and a tsp of chopped garlic and cook for 5 minutes; add 2 tsp cumin seeds, 1 tsp garum masala and cook for a minute before pouring over the dal.
  4. To add a little richness to the dal, add a swirl of coconut milk, stir through the dal and serve.

Gut healthy recipes – One pot pasta and pearl barley bake with preserved lemon, capers and olives

Gut healthy recipes

This great one pot meal is made mainly from store cupboard ingredients and is ideal for weekday suppers. It can also be made in advance and reheated.

Plants are important ingredients for the health of the gut. They contain dietary fibre, complex carbohydrates and phytochemicals which act like  a ‘fertiliser’ in the gut; helping healthy bacteria to thrive and become more diverse.

Pearl barley is a whole grain containing dietary fibre. Olives are a fermented food rich in lactobacillus and polyphenols which also promote the health of the gut.

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 60 minutes

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • ½ tsp chilli flakes (optional)
  • 2 tbsp capers
  • 1 tbsp of preserved lemon, flesh discarded and skin chopped
  • 70g pitted kalamata olives, roughly torn in half
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 125g pearl barley
  • 125g orzo
  • 1-2 plum tomatoes (180g), cut into ½cm-thick rounds
  • 40g Parmesan cheese, grated, or non-dairy hard cheese for the vegan version of this recipe
  • salt and black pepper
  • 11/ tbsp basil leaves, roughly torn

Method

Heat the oven to 220C /Fan oven 200C/Gas mark 7.

Put one tablespoon of oil into a large, ovenproof pan for which you have a lid, and heat gently. Add the onion and cook until softened and browned slightly. Add the garlic and chilli, if using, and cook for a minute more before stirring in the capers, half the preserved lemon and olives, tomato paste, tinned tomatoes, pearl barley and 450ml water. Bring the contents of the pan to a simmer, cover and cook for ten minutes. Remove the lid and add the orzo, transfer the pan to the oven for 20 minutes. Lift the lid off the pan and check the orzo and pearl barley is cooked. If not cook for a little longer. Add a little more liquid if required.

Haphazardly top the mixture with the sliced tomatoes, sprinkle over the cheese and return to the oven, uncovered, for 10 -12 minutes, or until bubbling and lightly browned. Remove from the oven and top with the remaining olives, preserved lemon and torn basil. Season with a little sea salt and black pepper and serve straight from the pot.

Cooks tip
To make your own quick version of preserved lemons: thinly slice two washed, unwaxed lemons. Cover with a tablespoon of salt and leave for 30 minutes. Pack the slices, plus the salty juices, into a small sterilised glass jar and cover with a layer of olive oil. The lemons will be ready to use after a day and for up to one month after the jar has been opened.

Variation

A can of tuna and a few anchovies can be added to this dish if you are not looking for a vegetarian option. 

Gut healthy recipes – Chicken meatballs with oriental greens, lime and ginger

Gut healthy recipes

This is a quick to make, low fat dish containing the soothing flavour of ginger. Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is widely used as a spice and an ingredient in traditional herbal medicine. The rhizome of ginger has been shown in clinical studies to help relieve gastrointestinal discomforts, nausea and vomiting[8].

Bok choy is a dark green vegetable containing dietary fibre and polyphenols which are beneficial for the health of the gut5.

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 400g minced chicken
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely grated
  • 2cm root ginger, peeled and finely grated, plus 4 thin slices the thickness of a pound coin
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 4 spring oni ons, trimmed and finely chopped
  • 1.2l chicken stock
  • 1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped (optional)[9]
  • 2 tbsp rapeseed oil
  • 2 heads of bok choy, leaves separated and halved lengthways
  • juice of 1 lime

Method

Mix together the minced chicken, garlic and grated ginger, soy sauce and half the spring onions. Take walnut sized amounts of the mixture, shape into balls and place them neatly on a plate. If you have time, cover the chicken balls with cling film and chill them in the fridge for half an hour before cooking. This makes them easier to handle.

Heat the oil in a wok or medium sized saucepan and cook the chicken balls in two batches, turning them over to make sure they are lightly browned all over. Transfer the chicken balls to a plate using a slotted spoon. There is no need to wash the pan at this point as the residue from cooking the chicken will add flavour to the dish.

Add the stock to the wok/saucepan pan and bring to a simmer. Add the browned chicken balls and ginger slices and cook for three minutes. Add the bok choy, remaining spring onions and chilli (if using) and cook for another five minutes. The meatballs should be cooked through and the bok choy tender. Add the lime juice a little at a time, tasting as you go. Season to taste. Serve with steamed rice or noodles.

Cooks tip

If you can’t find minced chicken, use skinless chicken thighs and mince them in a food processor. The minced chicken is easier to roll into balls if you wet your hands.

Variation

Other vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, thin slices of mushroom and green beans can be added to the stock. Minced turkey also works if you can’t get chicken. 

Craving more?

[1] Uchida M et al. (2007) Characteristic of Milk Whey Culture With Propionibacterium Freudenreichii ET-3 and Its Application to the Inflammatory Bowel Disease Therapy. Inflammopharmacology ;15(3):105-8.

doi: 10.1007/s10787-007-1557-5.

[2]Tanja V. Maier, Marianna Lucio, Lang Ho Lee et al. Impact of Dietary Resistant Starch on the Human Gut Microbiome, Metaproteome, and Metabolome. American Society for Microbiology September/October 2017 Volume 8 Issue 5 e01343-17  doi: 10.1128/mBio.01343-17

[3] Wong, S.H., Yu, J. Gut microbiota in colorectal cancer: mechanisms of action and clinical applications. Nat Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol16, 690–704 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41575-019-0209-8

[4] Micah L. Battson, Dustin M. Lee, Tiffany L. Weir, Christopher L. Gentile,The gut microbiota as a novel regulator of cardiovascular function and disease,The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry,

Volume 56,2018,Pages 1-15,ISSN 0955-2863,https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jnutbio.2017.12.010.

[5] https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/composition-of-foods-integrated-dataset-cofid

[6] Nikkhah Bodagh, M,  Maleki, I,  Hekmatdoost, A.  Ginger in gastrointestinal disorders: A systematic review of clinical trials. Food Sci Nutr.  2019; 7: 96– 108. https://doi.org/10.1002/fsn3.807

[7] Di Meo, F.; Margarucci, S.; Galderisi, U.; Crispi, S.; Peluso, G. Curcumin, Gut Microbiota, and Neuroprotection. Nutrients 2019, 11, 2426. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11102426

[8] Zhu Y, Wang F, Zhao Y, Wang P, Sang, S. Gastroprotective [6]-Gingerol Aspirinate as a Novel Chemopreventive Prodrug of Aspirin for Colon Cancer. Nature. Scientific Reports volume 7, Article number: 40119 (2017) 

[9] Some people with a sensitive gut find capsaicin contained in chilli can trigger symptoms. 

 Fraga CG, Croft KD, Kennedy DO and Tomás-Barberán FA. The effects of polyphenols and other bioactives on human health. Food and Function. volume 10, Pages 514 – 528, 2019.