It’s December and we’re totally snowed under. I look outside my study window and everything is covered in white – roofs, road, rails. It’s Wonderland. Holland appears to have come to a standstill, and I’m loving it. Cocooned at home, all warm and cosy, I am free to engage in delicious reading and writing while the rest of the country is on survival mode, minimising work and travel and focusing on doing as little as possible (it does make me wonder – this IS a cold country, how did people survive in pre-Global Warming years, when temperatures regularly fell under zero, and snow and ice were regular winter affair?!? A mystery).
It’s the kind of weather that calls for special treats, but healthy comfort food/drink is for most people a contradicting term. If it’s comforting, surely it can’t be healthy. It’s gotta be laced with sugar or cream or, preferably, both, topped with some whipped cream if possible. Like a really, really rich hot chocolate. Sure enough that’s a treat, and if that’s your game, who am I to stop you? But just in case you’re looking for some inspiring ideas to do it differently, here are some snow-and-cosiness-inspired drinks that happen to be not only delicious treats but health-supporting, too. They also happen to be lactose free, so no milk or cream, and the honey is optional.
Cheers to Winter!
Mulled Apple Juice
For one person (just for your own treat)
- 1 mug freshly pressed apple juice, or good quality, organic juice
- 3 strips orange peel
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 clove
- 1 teaspoon honey
- Simmer the apple juice with the strips of orange peel, cinnamon stick and cloves for about 5-10 minutes until all the flavours have infused. Sweeten to taste.
- Pour into a mug you love and serve yourself with a little orange peel and a slender cinnamon stick. What a treat!
A surprising little drink, this one. Great as a snack, great when the ‘sweet tooth’ bites, and a good replacement to dairy, too. Use very ripe bananas with lots of brown spots on them, or your ‘milk’ will not be sweet.
- 1 large banana
- 1 cup (warm) water
- 2 teaspoons honey or maple syrup
Blend on high speed and serve. I like it with a dash of cinnamon, which happens to be a warming spice, too.
Indian Herbal Green Tea (Kahwa)
The art of spiced, full flavoured teas is second nature to India, the world’s largest spice exporter. This delicious recipe – highly recommended – was offered by Priya Sinha, a close (Indian) friend and a superb cook.
- green tea (leaves or tea bag)
- 4 strands saffron
- 2 green cardamoms, slightly crushed
- 4 blanched almonds, chopped
- 1 stick cinnamon
- 2 cloves
- 2 tablespoons honey
- Boil 3 cups of water along with cinnamon, cardamom and cloves and pour over the tea. Leave to infuse over a very low flame for 10 minutes till tea looks golden.
- Meanwhile, dissolve saffron in a little water by rubbing it gently.
- Strain the tea and add the saffron liquid together with almonds.
- Sweeten if you like with honey and serve hot.
Perfumed Herbal Tea
(quantity for a large tea pot)
- 2 lemon grass stalks, bruised
- 1 cm fresh ginger, thinly sliced
- 4 cinnamon sticks
- ½ lime, sliced
Combine all ingredients in a roomy tea pot. Fill the pot with boiling water and let steep for 10+ minutes. Pour into cups and sweeten with honey, if desired.
Miso soup, Japan’s flagship broth, is a great savoury drink for a morning or afternoon snack. Rich with enzymes and phyto-estrogens, it’s the perfect female drink (though men can enjoy, too!). For anyone struggling with a sweet tooth, a savoury drink comes in very handy.
for 1 person (prepare all the ingredients before you start).
- 1 mugful of water
- 1 teaspoon dashi (Japanese) bouillon or a regular bouillon powder
- 1 tablespoon dark miso paste
- 1 tablespoon spring onion, finely chopped (optional)
- ½ tsp fresh ginger, finely chopped (optional)
- Dissolve the dashi bouillon (stock) powder in a mugful of boiling water. Mix well.
- Add the miso paste (it should never be cooked) and mix well until it is dissolved.
- Add the remaining ingredients, stir lightly and enjoy.
Note that you can find instant miso soup powders in health food stores, Toco’s and large supermarkets. The quality varies greatly, so I’d opt for the organic version.