3 immunity-boosting recipes: from orange baked salmon to coconut chicken curry

A superfood is only as good as it tastes

Amid the pandemic, more people than ever led their quarantined or semi-quarantined lives from the kitchen, to nurture loved ones and themselves. We sought solace in cooking as a sense of control in a manic situation. We started to raise our game by becoming more selective and inquisitive of the foods that enter our body. Search engines were bombarded with the quest to find superfood ingredients that elevate our health as a defence mechanism to combat a malicious virus.

The idea of boosting our immunity is alluring, but there is not one foolproof manual to follow. It is more about adopting a balanced lifestyle that entails enough exercise, quality sleep, less stress and, of course, a healthy diet.

A wholesome diet takes in key nutrients such as zinc (lean meat and seafood); iron (lentils, spinach, milk, beans); and vitamins A (sweet potatoes, mangoes, carrots), B6 (chickpeas, salmon, tuna), C (citrus fruits, pineapple, broccoli) and E (nuts, avocados, seeds, prawns).

The immunising aspect of these ingredients is all very well, but what about the taste factor? Here, we have recipes that are nutritious as well as delicious, and that transform random ingredients, even leftovers, into tasty wholesome meals inspired by flavours from all over the world – with minimal effort.

Orange baked salmon with spiced lentils

Lentils and fish make for a lovely yet oft-overlooked combination. This delicious but quick Puy lentil stew served under a simple baked fillet is an enjoyable meal for a break from the usual carb and vegetable sides.

Serves two to three

Ingredients for the lentil stew

Extra-virgin olive oil

1 onion, diced

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 green chilli, chopped

1 cup green Puy lentils, soaked for an hour

½ tsp cumin

¼ cup apple cider vinegar

½ cup tomato puree

Method

Saute the onions, garlic and chilli in olive oil.

Add in the lentils, then the cumin, and season with salt and pepper. Saute for two minutes.

Stir in the vinegar and tomato puree. Cover the lentils with water and then simmer until they are cooked through, tender and acquire a thickish consistency.

Ingredients for the salmon

750g skinless salmon fillet

Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

½ cup orange juice

2 tbsp soya sauce

3 orange slices

Salt and pepper, to taste

Method

Drizzle some olive oil into an oven-­proof dish, then lay the salmon fillet into it.

Top with all the remaining ingredients and leave to marinate in the fridge for about an hour.

Bake in a preheated oven at 180°C for about 20 minutes.

Serve on top of the spiced lentils.

Coconut chicken curry

This light and fragrant dish is packed with textbook immunity-boosting ingredients that can do wonders for both your palate and your body.

Serves four

Ingredients

1 can coconut milk

3 garlic cloves

1 tbsp freshly grated ginger

1 tbsp freshly grated turmeric

3 handfuls of fresh coriander leaves

1 tbsp honey

1 lemon, juiced

3 tbsp vegetable oil

1 tbsp curry powder

1 onion, chopped

1kg chicken fillets, cut into medium cubes

Salt and pepper, to taste

Spring onions, to garnish

Basmati rice or quinoa, to serve

Method

Add the coconut milk to a blender with the garlic, ginger, turmeric, most of the coriander leaves, honey, lemon juice and a cup of water. Blend the mixture until it forms a smooth paste.

In a large saucepan, heat the oil, then add the curry powder. Stir-fry for 10 seconds to release its aroma.

Add in the chopped onion and saute until translucent, then pour in the blended mixture, bring to the boil and simmer for five minutes.

Stir in the chicken and let it simmer until cooked through.

Sprinkle the remaining coriander leaves and chopped spring onions.

Serve the curry with basmati rice or quinoa.

Chickpea and sweet potato fatteh

Fatteh is an all-time Middle Eastern favourite – a messy layered dish that delivers all the right notes in textures and flavours. I love that it does not need special culinary skills and yet can still wow a crowd. A chickpea fatteh is full of immunity boosters, especially if you replace fried pita bread with sweet potato crisps. It works wonderfully and adds a sweetness to the tangy tahini and yoghurt sauce.

Serves two

Ingredients

1 sweet potato, peeled and thinly sliced

300g plain yoghurt

3 tbsp tahini

5 garlic cloves, minced

1 lemon, squeezed

Dash of apple cider vinegar

Splash of pomegranate molasses

1 can of chickpeas, drained

½ tsp cumin

Pinch of sumac

1 handfuls of pine nuts

1 handful of roasted almonds

1 handful of fresh parsley, chopped

1 handful of pomegranate seeds

Extra-virgin olive oil

Sea salt and pepper, to taste

Method

Lay the sweet potato slices on a lined baking tray, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with coarse sea salt (save some slivers to garnish). Bake in a preheated oven at 220°C until golden and crispy.

Whisk the yoghurt with the tahini, three cloves of garlic, lemon juice, vinegar and pomegranate molasses until blended. Season with salt and pepper.

Saute the chickpeas for a minute in olive oil with a little garlic, add the cumin, sumac and a dash of water.

Stir-fry the remaining garlic in olive oil with the pine nuts and almonds.

To serve

Lay the sweet potato crisps at the bottom of a serving platter. Top with the chickpeas.

Cover with the yoghurt sauce.

Drizzle over the stir-fried garlic, almonds and pine nuts. Sprinkle with parsley and pomegranate seeds.

Soha Darwish is a menu consultant and member of the UK Guild of Food Writers