Good food has the power to nurture and heal our bodies, and with this in mind, food author, private chef and holistic health coach Melissa Delport shares some of her nourishing recipes with us. Using nutrient-rich, whole foods, these dishes will keep you feeling good – from a crunchy salad and creamy spanakopita to a veggie-packed curry and fruity crumble cake, each bite is equal parts comfort and health.
Fennel is a prime example of how food can heal. Fennel tea can support digestion, and cooking with it can ease bloating and support good gut health. It is a powerful green that can add a subtle anise flavour or the perfect crunch to a salad – if you aren’t used to cooking with fennel, use only the bulb, not the leaves, for this recipe.
2 cups water
Salt and pepper
1 cup pearl barley
350g portobello mushrooms, halved
100g courgettes, sliced into bite-size pieces
2 shallots, sliced
2 tsp fennel seeds
1 fennel bulb, stalks and leaves removed, bulb very thinly sliced
1 handful baby spinach, finely sliced
1 small handful fresh basil leaves, finely sliced
+3 tbs olive oil
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Preheat the oven to 180 °C.
Bring the water and a crack of salt to a boil in a medium-sized saucepan.
Rinse the pearl barley and add it to the saucepan. Cook for 30–35 minutes. You don’t want it to be too soft, it must still have a slight crunch. Once ready, rinse with cold water, drain and set aside.
Meanwhile, place the mushrooms and courgettes on a roasting tray. Toss with 1 tablespoon coconut oil until evenly coated and season with salt and pepper. Pop the tray into the oven and roast for 35 minutes until golden brown, tossing at the halfway mark. Once ready, remove from the oven.
Meanwhile, in a medium-sized frying pan over medium heat, melt 2 teaspoons coconut oil. Sauté the shallots and fennel seeds for 5–10 minutes until the shallots start to caramelise. Once ready, set aside.
Place the fennel, spinach and basil in a salad bowl and add the pearl barley. Toss until well mixed. Top with the shallots, courgettes and mushrooms. Drizzle over the olive oil and lemon juice and zest. Season to taste and garnish with micro herbs, if desired. Serve right away.
This is the perfect combination of crunch and melt-in-your-mouth creaminess. Originating from Greece, this dish is traditionally made with feta. If you are mindful of your dairy intake, I encourage you to try the vegan feta filling. Spinach is an excellent source of vitamins K, A and C as well as magnesium and iron. If you are anaemic, then this is the dish for you to pack in those missing nutrients.
2 tsp coconut oil
2 medium leeks, finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
500g swiss chard, chopped
½ cup fresh dill leaves, roughly chopped
¼ cup fresh parsley leaves, roughly chopped
¼ cup nutritional yeast
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
1 roll phyllo pastry
⅓ cup olive oil
1 tbs poppy seeds
OPTION 1 (Vegan Feta Filling)
1 cup raw cashew nuts, soaked overnight or for at least 4 hours in warm water
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tsp sea salt
2 wheels feta, crumbled
Preheat the oven to 180 °C.
If you’re going with the vegan feta option, place the soaked cashew nuts, vinegar and salt into a food processor and pulse until a feta-like crumb forms. Once ready, set aside.
Heat the coconut oil in a medium-sized frying pan over medium heat. Add the leeks and sauté for roughly 10 minutes until softened. Add the garlic and cook for a further 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, then add the Swiss chard and herbs and fold through, letting the residual heat in the pan wilt the greens – you want the greens to wilt, but you don’t want them to be overcooked. Add the nutritional yeast and cayenne pepper and toss.
Transfer the mixture to a large bowl.
If you are using eggs (non-vegan), add them to the mixture along with the feta. If not, skip the egg step and add the vegan feta. Season with black pepper and mix until well combined.
To assemble the spanakopita, place all the phyllo sheets, one by one, into a 30 cm quiche dish so that the corners are randomly aligned. Fill the centre with the filling. One by one, fold the corners of each sheet into the middle while brushing the exposed areas generously with olive oil. Sprinkle over the poppy seeds and pop the dish into the oven. Bake for 35–40 minutes until the pastry is golden brown and crunchy. Garnish with micro herbs, if desired, and serve with a fresh garden salad as a main course, or as aside.
Tofu is made from fermented soya beans, and you can find it at Asian supermarkets or your local health store. For this recipe, I recommend buying a GMO-free, firmer tofu as you want to fry it up so that it gets crispy. Not all tofu is created equal, so try them out and find the one that works best for you. Tofu will take on the flavour of what you cook it in, so although it can be perceived as bland if not cooked correctly, it can also be absolutely incredible when submerged in surrounding flavours. It is also naturally high in protein and a wonderful substitute for many meat products.
1 cup uncooked brown rice
2 tbs coconut oil
250g tofu (or paneer), cubed
¾ cup raw cashew nuts, roasted
1¾ cups coconut milk
3 tbs tomato paste
¼ cup Greek yoghurt or coconut cream
½ red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbs grated fresh ginger
2 tsp curry powder
3 tbs Massaman or red curry paste
2 tbs garam masala
2 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp cayenne pepper (or to taste) ½ teaspoon salt
250g chickpeas, cooked
250g tender-stem broccoli
1 handful fresh coriander leaves, roughly chopped
Cook the rice as per the packet instructions. Once the water has evaporated, remove from the heat and set aside with the lid on to steam.
Heat 1 tablespoon of the coconut oil in a medium-sized frying pan over medium heat. Add the tofu and cook for roughly 3 minutes per side until crispy. Once ready, remove from the heat, drain on paper towel and set aside.
Place the roasted cashew nuts, coconut milk, tomato paste, yoghurt or coconut cream and ½ cup water into a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Set aside.
Using the same frying pan from the tofu, heat the remaining tablespoon of coconut oil over medium heat. Once hot, add the onion and sauté for 5 minutes until translucent. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for another 5 minutes until the onion starts to caramelise.
Add the curry powder, curry paste, garam masala, turmeric, cayenne pepper and salt and cook for another minute to release the fragrance of the spices. Once ready, pour in the cashew sauce and mix well. Bring the sauce to a gentle simmer and cook for 15 minutes. If the sauce becomes too thick, add a little water to help it along.
Once the flavours have developed, stir in the tofu and the chickpeas and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the broccoli and continue cooking for 5 minutes.
Serve a generous ladle of curry with a helping of rice or naan bread and top with fresh coriander leaves and a crack of black pepper.
Everyone wants to be able to have their cake and eat it. With this recipe, you have found just that. It has the ultimate satisfaction that comes with a moist, rich cake and all the benefits of sweetness that come when baking fruits, especially cherries. I hope that you will give it a go and substitute your refined sugary standard cakes with a cake of this nature. After all, celebrating without guilt is utter magic!
35g wholemeal spelt flour
25g coconut sugar
½ tsp salt
40g ghee or butter, cold and diced into cubes
50g raw walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
125g ghee or butter
110g demerara sugar or unrefined brown sugar
2 eggs or vegan egg replacement
1 tsp vanilla paste
1 tsp cracked black pepper
85g wholemeal spelt flour
85g spelt flour
1½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
Preheat the oven to 180 °C. Grease a 15 cm cake tin with coconut oil or ghee.
For the filling, mix together the cherries, orange zest and coconut sugar in a bowl and set aside.
For the crumble, place all the ingredients, except the walnuts, into a food processor and pulse until a coarse crumb has formed. Add the nuts and pulse once or twice to combine. Transfer the crumble to a bowl and pop it into the fridge until you need it.
Now it’s time to make the dough. Whisk together the ghee or butter and sugar until creamy. Add the eggs (or egg replacement), one at a time, and whisk until just combined. Add the vanilla paste, black pepper, flours, baking powder and salt and whisk until combined. Don’t overwork the dough.
Spoon the dough into the cake tin and even out the surface with a spatula. Spread the cherry filling evenly onto the dough. Sprinkle the crumble on top of the filling, making sure everything is evenly covered.
Pop the cake onto the middle rack of the oven and bake for 1 hour. It is ready when a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. If the crumble darkens too quickly, slightly reduce the heat in your oven and keep an eye on it.
Once ready, remove from the oven and allow to cool fully in the tin before gently removing the cake. Serve with extra fresh cherries, if desired.
Who Is Melissa Delport?
Melissa Delport is a photographer, food stylist, private chef and certified integrative nutrition health coach based in Cape Town. She is also the author of Whole: Bowl Food for Balance and, most recently, Heal: Begin With Food. Her latest book is a celebration of whole food and its ability to heal the body. It features close to one hundred healthy recipes and health information and questions that aim to build awareness around food choices. Melissa believes that healing one’s relationship with food is the first step to connecting to one’s health, and she hopes to offer an opportunity for lasting change and overall wellness through her recipes.