Step away from the granola and whip yourself up a gut microbiome-boosting brekkie from a Masterchef winner who also happens to be an NHS gastroenterologist
Bored of porridge? It's time to pimp your breakfast with these three delectable new dishes from new cookbook, The Kitchen Prescription, by Dr Saliha Mahmood Ahmed. If that name rings a bell that may be because the good doctor won MasterChef in 2017.
Not only do her recipes taste delicious, but they are also great for your gut too. Dr Saliha is an NHS gastroenterologist who is a firm believer in using your diet to support your digestive health. The 35-year-old from Watford sees the first meal of the day as a “strategic opportunity” to “pamper your gut.” She points out that ”many breakfast foods are naturally designed to restore gut health. Think dependable, affordable oats, satisfying tangy kefir, creamy live yoghurt or the pure macro- and micronutrient-filled goodness or fruits, nuts and seeds. This opportunity shouldn’t be wasted!”
OK, we’re sold *discreetly hides the Frosties*. So over to you Dr Saliha. What's cooking?
Breakfast Beans of Dreams
I grew up in the Middle East where this bean dish, called ‘foul medammes’, is a breakfast staple. Many cultures have their version of breakfast beans, whether it is baked beans on toast, Indian curried chickpeas with poori, or Mexican refried beans. It does make sense: beans are rich in gut microbe-fuelling fibre and protein, providing enough sustenance to stave hunger off until late in the afternoon. I use tinned fava beans here to save time, and you can often find these tins with ‘foul medammes’ written somewhere on the label. Use any other tinned beans such as kidney beans, chickpeas or black-eyed beans if you can’t get hold of fava beans.
A note on fava beans: they are legumes, which means they're a rich, inexpensive source of fibre and protein. They are the perfect breakfast prebiotic, containing antioxidants and other bioactive compounds that are considered to contribute to human health. Fava beans in particular are rich in folate, which supports the synthesis of DNA and is essential for the body to produce red blood cells.
1 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
½ tsp cumin seeds
½ cinnamon stick
2 x 400g (14oz) tins fava beans
½ tsp hot paprika
½ tsp chilli flakes
300ml (10fl oz/generous 1 cup) kettle-hot water
Juice of ½ lemon
Salt, to taste
For the relish:
1 ripe tomato
2 tbsp olive oil
Handful of finely chopped parsley
2 soft-boiled eggs
Selection of pickled vegetables, e.g. cucumbers, carrots and turnips
4 toasted pitta breads
- Place the olive oil in a small saucepan over a low heat; when it has just started warming through, add the garlic, cumin seeds and cinnamon stick. The idea is to cook out the rawness of the garlic for a minute or two without letting it colour or burn.
- Drain the fava beans and add them to the warm garlicky oil along with the paprika and chilli flakes. Top with the kettle-hot water and braise over a medium heat for about 20 minutes, stirring regularly. You will notice that the beans start breaking down slightly and thickening the whole mixture. Season with the lemon juice and salt to taste.
- For the relish, grate the tomato into a small bowl. Add the olive oil and parsley and stir.
- To serve, place the beans in individual small deep bowls. Top with the tomato relish and, if liked, half a soft-boiled egg. Pickled vegetables and toasted pitta breads are a fantastic side.
Mango and Chia Seed Pudding
In this recipe the chia seeds swell and magically thicken the mango and coconut milk mixture. The seeds themselves have very little flavour of their own; they are, however, excellent sponges for added fruity flavours, which is how I would recommend you use them at breakfast. Handily, this dish keeps incredibly well in the fridge for a few days, so you can keep some for the next day’s breakfast. If you can’t get hold of tinned mango pulp, just blitz up some tinned or fresh mango in a blender to create a home-made mango pulp instead.
A note on chia seeds: there is emerging evidence that chia seeds may be beneficial to heart health and help to lower blood pressure. They are rich in polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids. Chia seeds are thought to exert a beneficial effect on insulin resistance and blood sugar responses. They are a rich source of fibre, and this may be beneficial for our gut microbiome. A 25g (1oz) portion of chia seeds contains about 9g (⅓oz) of fibre, just under a third of our recommended daily fibre intake. There is no doubt that chia seeds have beneficial effects on health. However, they can be added by marketing departments to less nutritious foods, in order to improve a product’s appeal to ‘health conscious’ consumers. Be wary!
1 x 400ml (14fl oz) tin full-fat organic coconut milk
1 tbsp maple syrup
200ml (7fl oz/generous ¾ cup) tinned mango pulp/purée
¼ tsp ground cardamom (or the seeds of 3 crushed pods)
½ tsp fennel seeds, crushed in a pestle and mortar
Zest and juice of 1 lime
75g (2¾oz/½ cup) chia seeds
Bonus gut-friendly toppings
1 dollop of full-fat live Greek yoghurt or plant-based yoghurt of your choice
Handful of fresh or tinned mango chunks or other fruit, e.g. passion fruit
- Combine all the ingredients, except the chia seeds, in a bowl and whisk well to combine. You want to make sure that any coconut solids are well emulsified into the mixture and no lumps remain.
- Add the chia seeds and stir gently for a minute or two. You will notice the mixture will start to thicken. Place it in the fridge for a few hours before serving. (You can also make this the night before or breakfast the next morning.)
- Top with a dollop of Greek yoghurt and fruit of your choice.
Refreshing Kefir Cooler
If you’re after a breakfast on the run or a refreshing sip on a warm summer day, the lactic tang of kefir in this recipe works perfectly against the tart sweetness of seedy raspberries and perfume of rosewater. I use raspberries because they are a rich source of vitamin C, which helps support the immune system; they are also thought to help collagen production in the skin. Just a cup of raspberries has about 8g (⅓oz) of fibre – more than many other fruits.
A note on kefir: this cultured fermented probiotic milk drink was first made in the mountainous regions between Asia and Europe. Carbon dioxide, a byproduct of the fermentation process, gives the kefir a slight fizzy note. Depending on the variety used, it can contain over 30 strains of beneficial bacteria and yeasts. The starter culture comes in the shape of a grain called a SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast). Kefir is an excellent source of complete amino acids and calcium, which is important for bone health.
200g (7oz) raspberries (fresh or frozen)
3–4 ice cubes
1–2 tsp rosewater (not rose extract)
1 tbsp maple syrup or honey
½ tsp fennel seeds
500ml (16fl oz/2 cups) kefir
- Place the raspberries, ice, rosewater, maple syrup, fennel seeds and a quarter of the kefir in a blender and blitz until very smooth. The amount of rosewater you use will depend on the quality the rosewater that you have and also how floral you like your drink.
- Pour the remaining kefir into the blended raspberry mixture and stir to combine. Serve immediately.