For me, convenience food does not come pre-packaged and require minutes in the microwave. I don’t even own one of those crazy radioactive machines and never intend to buy one. Am I a food snob? Maybe a little but that’s not why I shun ready meals. The real reason I shy away from TV dinners is because they scare me a little – all those preservatives and masses amount of salt and sugar is not what constitutes a decent meal in my book.
People often complain they have no time to cook. They also cite their busy schedules when confronted with the question of why they eat so much meat and dairy. It’s convenient. A slice of turkey between two slices of bread. A packet of macaroni cheese. A ready meal that can be zapped in seconds. All these foods (if you can call them that) are at the centre of our lives because our health and nutrition come way down the list of priorities in our ever increasingly busy existence.
The reality is we cannot sustain these busy lives without sustenance, which unfortunately will not be found in a packet. My mother has often used the famous phrase ‘Your health is your wealth’ and never has this been more profound than now. We are in the midst of a crisis with diabetes, cancer, and heart disease commonplace in first-world countries like the US and the UK. Illness has become normalized. It’s just something that happens and we absolve ourselves from any blame, not recognizing we have the power to change or at the very least improve our current state of health.
Food is important. It shouldn’t be a secondary consideration that is slotted in between running the kids to school, meeting deadlines, and sleep. Remember ‘square meals’? Most of our own parents ensured we received a square (complete) meal at least once a day and even if that didn’t happen we could rely on school dinners to fill the gap – back when everything was made from scratch and profit margins came second to our childhood dietary needs! Aren’t rose tinted glasses wonderful.
Convenience and home-cooked don’t have to be two separate words any longer. Let’s marry the two, take a few more minutes out of our busy schedules and put food and nutrition at the forefront once more. Your health is not out of your hands so take charge and take heart, for we can win this battle and banish our niggling ailments to the dust heap. The epidemic might be nearing but we now have the knowledge to reverse and conquer. You have the power.
As Gandhi so poignantly said: Be the change you want to see in the world. Right on!
1 400g can (or cup and a half) chopped tomatoes
1 heaped tsp tomato puree
1 400g can chickpeas
2 large garlic cloves
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp chilli powder
Generous shake of dried chilli flakes
1 tsp sugar
Pink Himalayan salt and ground black pepper
1 tbsp freshly chopped coriander
1 cup bulgar wheat
2 tbsp freshly chopped flat leaf parsley
Zest of half a lemon
2 tbsp lemon juice
1. Heat a little oil in a heavy based saucepan. Finely chop the onion, add to pan, season with salt and pepper and cover. Leave to sweat for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.
2. Mince the garlic and add to pan. Allow to cook for several minutes.
3. Wash and cut the eggplant into small pieces. Add to pan and stir to incorporate the onion and garlic. Season and cover.
4. Wash and slice the zucchini. Add to pan, mix thoroughly, cover and leave to soften gently for a few minutes.
5. Add the cumin, coriander, cinnamon, chilli powder and chilli flakes. Give a thorough stir and clamp on lid for a minute or two before adding the tomato paste and chopped tomatoes. Stir. Sprinkle in the sugar, season and leave to simmer for twenty minutes until everything is soft but not mushy.
6. Drain and rinse the chickpeas and add to the pot for a final ten minutes.
7. Whilst the stew is simmering, boil a kettle, place the bulgar wheat in a large bowl. Add one cup of freshly boiled water to the one cup of bulgar, stir and cover with a plate or clingfilm. When the water has been completely absorbed (about 10mins), fluff with a fork and stir in the chopped parsley, lemon zest and lemon juice.
8. Finally, check the stew for seasoning and serve.