There is no doubt that January is a fantastic time to start new healthy habits and make healthy lifestyle changes. Many people have been doing just that over the past few weeks – and may even be planning to keep it up into February. But let’s be honest, it’s also the perfect time to start a Netflix binge-watching routine. Like many people, I just haven’t got around to it yet. It’s often quite difficult to get back into a routine after a couple of weeks of excessive indulgence. Frequently find myself skipping the gym and still diving into leftover tins of chocolates that can offer only Bounties and empty wrappers. The challenge then is to break out of this cycle of indulgence and establish a new routine that will help you to get back on track.
Like many others, albeit less successfully than others, I have been trying to find a new routine, determined to beat the dreaded January Blues. I can’t say I was doing particularly well; already I had decided to postpone my new year, new me mantra to February instead. But then I thought to myself if I can’t even stick to my resolutions for a whole month, how will I ever make it to the end of the year? I was almost ready to give up, tired of my resistance bands eye-rolling at me from the corner, still in their packaging. Don’t feel sorry for me. I don’t deserve it. Instead, I sought out help from Ayurvedic chef and wellness consultant, Mira Manek, and the newly appointed executive chef of Covent Garden restaurant Sycamore Vino Cucina, Gary Lee (formerly executive chef of The Ivy Restaurant), within London’s Middle Eight hotel. But neither of them could answer my burning question: How much pizza is too much pizza?
The mood-boosting menu, which launched on Blue Monday, has been inspired by recipes from Mira’s popular vegetarian Indian cookbook, Saffron Soul – which if you aren’t familiar with, it’s worth seeking out. Wholesome dishes crafted with super spices famed for their mood-boosting properties. Naturally, I was sceptical. Unsurprisingly, I was wrong.
Our evening began with a glass of sparkling Kombucha. This fermented tea is linked to all kinds of health benefits and packed with probiotics and antioxidants necessary for keeping a healthy gut. Kombucha is known for its slightly sour and sweet taste, as well as its fizzy carbonation. It is also known for its energising and detoxifying effects and ability to aid digestion and help with weight loss. So, bottom line – it’s like a supercharged soda, without the guilt!
I felt healthier just looking at the nutrient-rich DIY Deconstructed Daal, the star of the wellness show. This daal was incredibly flavourful, and it came with a selection of modifications you can use to zhush it up further, such as tadka spices, chutneys, and croutons. Mira explained how lentils contain tryptophan, an amino acid used by the body to produce serotonin, as well as folate, a B vitamin also required for serotonin production. This means that consuming daal can help to naturally boost your mood and promote overall wellbeing. The various additions and modifications you can add to the daal ensure that you can enjoy it in a variety of ways and make it more nutritious. For instance, adding nuts and seeds to the daal can increase its nutrient content and adding different spices can add an extra flavour and make the daal more interesting. Who knew that comfort food could be so healthy and delicious?
A multicoloured Buddha Bowl arrived at our table, loaded with slow-release carbohydrates sweet potatoes, nutrient-dense avocados, and protein-wealthy tofu. I barely noticed the hot steaming bowl of Rigatoni with rabbit ragu, and porcini pangrattato taunting me as it left the pass. I reminded myself in that moment of weakness, this Buddha Bowl was packed with slow-releasing carbohydrates, full of good fats, and proteins, which are known to increase brain chemicals dopamine and norepinephrine, each of which plays a pivotal role in one’s mood. Sprinkled with pangattatto. I meant roasted almonds; I was sure this wholesome Buddha Bowl was able to make me feel better. I can firmly say, it truly did.
Typically, I tend to steer away from sweet things however, sweet temptations arrived quickly to the table in the form of a Date & almond butter dessert bowl served with Mira’s famed signature chai. The dates are rich in iron and B vitamins, while coconut yoghurt is soothing for the gut. The combination of dates, almond butter, coconut yoghurt, and cinnamon powder creates a healthy and delicious dessert. As well as being sweet and satisfying, it is also packed with nutrients that are beneficial for the body. The dates provide iron and B vitamins, while coconut yoghurt is calming for the digestive system. Cinnamon powder helps regulate blood sugar and aids digestion.
Having my belly filled, happy and healthy, and my mood more than boosted, I recommend you head down to Sycamore Vino Cucina to try this sensational menu before it ends this February. And remember, “one cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” Virginia Woolf.
To discover more, visit: middleeight.com
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All imagery courtesy of Sycamore Vino Cucina.