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SARAH RANKIN: My winter message – and it's got nothing to do with diets!

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This year's showdown host BBC Masterchef finalist Sarah Rankin.
This year's showdown host BBC Masterchef finalist Sarah Rankin.

I am vehemently opposed to the diet culture that we are bombarded with in January.

It seems every commercial break is dedicated to paying money to some organisation or other that promises to make us thinner and happier.

Our social feeds are packed with impossibly tanned and six-packed individuals telling us that if we just complete the 40-minute survey and pay the large monthly fee, they’ll let us in on their ‘secret’, the ‘one simple hack’ that will change our lives and our waistlines forever. I have no time for this. If diets worked, we’d all go on one once and there would be no multibillion-pound industry built up around a bizarre and identikit ‘ideal’ of what we should look and feel like.

Although I deplore the idea of cutting back, I do think that this time of year is a good one to reset our cooking repertoires. There is great produce around in winter, but the traditions around Christmas tend to mean we stick with the same dishes, so we could all probably do with injecting a bit of culinary excitement into our menus.

Veganuary and Dry January are nowhere in my vocabulary, but I can understand how upping your veg intake and knocking midweek wine on the head may help to ease some of the inevitable deflation that comes after the last of the wrapping paper has been recycled and the fairy lights packed away for another year.

How about a deliciously hearty and smoky sweet potato and coconut soup to wash away the January blues? This is super simple, tasty and healthy, as nutrient-dense sweet potato is packed full of fibre and antioxidants.

Serves four: 4 large sweet potatoes, scrubbed; 1 large onion, sliced; 3 cloves garlic, sliced; 1 tbsp smoked paprika; 1 tsp ground cumin; 1 tsp cayenne pepper; 1 red chill, chopped; 1 jar sweet roasted peppers from a jar; 1 small can coconut cream; 1 can coconut milk; 300ml vegetable stock; Few coriander leaves; 1 tbsp coconut flakes

  • Preheat the oven to 200°c fan and rub the sweet potatoes – skins still on – with oil and salt. Roast for 30-45 minutes depending on their size.
  • While they cook, fry the onion, garlic chilli and spices over a low heat in a large pan until the onions are soft and translucent. This takes time, at least 10 minutes.
  • Remove the potatoes from the oven and allow to cool a little before scooping out the flesh. Reserving the skins and adding them back to the hot oven for another 15 minutes. Add the sweet potato flesh to the pan with the onion mixture. Blitz the peppers and their preserving water in a blender and add that too. Bring to the boil and turn down to a simmer. Add the coconut milk and cream and simmer for another few minutes.
  • Remove the now crispy skins from the oven and chop roughly. Add the coconut flakes season with sea salt. Spoon your soup into bowls and sprinkle a little of the crispy skin and coconut on top and scatter over a few coriander leaves.

Enjoy the rest of winter for the season of warming dishes, hearty suppers and fluffy socks that it should be. Forget the diets and focus on eating well, breathing in clean, winter air and looking forward to the rest of the year with all the challenges and joys that life brings.

Sarah Rankin hosts regular Supper Clubs, Cookery Classes and cooking demonstrations all over Scotland. Her cookbook, ‘Kith – food for family and friends’ will be available from early April. You can find out more about Sarah’s events and news by visiting www.sarahrankincooks.com or @Sarahrankincooks on Instagram or Facebook.

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