For more than several months, the pandemic has upended the world. By now, most of us are accustomed to a relatively sedentary lifestyle. This new unwelcomed way of life inside has given us unrestrained, round-the-clock access to the fridge and kitchen pantry. But whether you’ve been eating more, eating less or just forgetting to eat at all, there are strategies you can implement to ease back a sense of balance in your diet.
Adopting a mindful, nourishing meal plan is one.
Last week, Eve Persak — the Bali-based nutritionist who helms the nutrition and wellness-related programmes for the Como hotel group’s 15 destinations — shares the healthful recipes she would start her day with, including a caffeine-free latte and an evergreen immunity-boosting breakfast.
Now Persak imparts her wisdom for the latter half of the day. Combining her own recipes with ones out of Como Shambala’s cookbook, the nutritionist builds a menu, from dinner to a cacao nightcap, that helps de-stress the mind and the body.
Eve Persak, photographed at The Slow in Canggu, Bali.
“When we’re stressed, our minds immediately gravitate towards comfort food: ‘I want pasta, I want bread, pastries, cookies and chocolate’,” Persak notes. “There’s an underlying physiological drive for these as a response to our body’s fluctuating blood sugar levels due to the stress.” But kowtowing to these impulses can contribute to greater fluctuations, kickstarting a vicious cycle of dietary imbalance. There’s an increasing need to be critical about the food you’re eating, the compounds and nutrients, or lack thereof, it contains.
Below, Persak’s menu — “flooded with all kinds of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants” — is built to prevent and counteract some of the stress-related cellular damage in the body. It works optimally when prologued by a wholesome breakfast and lunch, like the ones in Persak’s previous meal plan.
These recipes, however, are not about playing it by the book. For dinner, a fish-based dish can be tweaked to fit your proclivity and appetite. Choose your preferred fish, or add quinoa to add weight to the meal. A dairy-free dessert follows right after dinner with a build-your-own formula. And finally, a pre-bedtime hot cacao drink, blended with an optional spritz of chilli powder, to unwind to.
Related story: The Nourishing Recipes a Nutritionist Starts Her Day With
Hiramasa Kingfish with Cucumber and Honey Melon Gaspacho, Heirloom Tomatoes and Olives*
Courtesy of Como Shambala
For many, dinner tends to be the heaviest, richest and largest meal of the day. “When viewed nutritionally or physiologically, this is counterintuitive,” says Persak. “When the body is winding down, our digestive tract and metabolism are less efficient.”
In this regard, this dish — particularly low in carbohydrates but rich in protein, thanks to the kingfish — is intentionally light. The kingfish itself is low in total fat, explain Persak, but offers bioavailable omega 3 oils, which help counteract stress and reduce inflammation throughout the body. If kingfish is hard to procure, alternatives like grouper, mahi-mahi or trout can serve as stand-ins. Likewise, red vine-ripe tomatoes could serve as swaps if heirloom varieties are unavailable.
For those who prefer a “more filling” meal, Persak suggests adding a serving of quinoa: “While the formal recipe doesn’t include it, this grain is one of the highest in protein and also gluten-free so it will still sit easily on the digestive system.”
Time: 45 minutes
Ingredients for Gaspacho
- 4 green apples
- ½ honeydew melon
- 3 long green chillies, split lengthwise and seeded
- 3 Lebanese or English cucumber, cut in half lengthwise and seeded
- 1 green bell pepper (capsicum), cut into quarters and seeded
- 4 cloves garlic
- ½ small red onion, chopped
- Sea salt and ground white pepper, to taste
Ingredients for Seared Hiramasa Kingfish
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 6 pieces of hiramasa kingfish (each 140 grams or 5oz), skinned
- ½ lemon
Ingredients to Serve
- 1 tablespoon raw apple cider vinegar
- 1 yellow heirloom tomato, cut into 6 wedges
- 1 small red heirloom tomato, cut into 6 slices
- 1 small green zebra-striped heirloom tomato, cut into 6 wedges
- ¼ honeydew melon, skin removed, seeded and cut into 6 thin slices
- ½ Lebanese or English cucumber, cut in half, seeded and sliced
- ¼ red onion, sliced lengthwise
- 5 grams or ¼ oz (¼ cup) dill leaves and basil leaves
- 18 Ligurian or other brine-cured black olives, pitted
- 1 tablespoon salted capers, rinsed and drained
1. To make the gazpacho, put the apples through a juice extractor, catching the liquid in a jug (you will need 500 millilitres or 2 cups juice). Next, juice the melon (to produce 375 millilitres or 1 ½ cups) and follow this by juicing the chillies. Put all the juices in a blender and add the remaining ingredients. Season and blend until smooth.
2. To make the seared hiramasa kingfish, heat a large heavy-based frying pan over a medium heat. Heat the olive oil and cook the kingfish, skin-side up, for 3 to 4 minutes, or until golden. Turn over and cook for a further 2 minutes, then transfer the fish to a warmed plate, caramelised side up. Squeeze lemon juice over the fish and rest for 2 minutes before serving.
3. To serve, pour 125 millilitres (½ cup) of the gazpacho into each bowl and season each with half a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar. Divide the tomatoes, melon and cucumber among the bowls. Combine the onion, herbs, olives and capers in a separate bowl and dress with 2 teaspoons of the apple cider vinegar. Season to taste and divide the salad between the serving bowls, then top with the fish and serve immediately.
Homemade No-Churn Banana, Almond & Coconut Ice Cream
“This is so easy to make,” says Persak. The nutritionist’s own dessert recipe is all about throwing in ingredients your tastebuds will appreciate. “Sure, the banana is the base but you can add whatever you want in there. You can add in a little bit of cacao powder, chocolate, caramel, berries, anything — the sky’s the limit.”
Persak’s ice cream has no added sweeteners and is dairy-free. “A lot of my clients are lactose intolerant, so this is a nice homemade alternative and they feel like they’re not missing out.” And unlike other ice creams you’d find in supermarkets, this rendition offers a source of fibre (“It prolongs satiety and prevents further cravings.”) and omega 3 oils derived from the flax and almond (“They’re heart-healthy monounsaturated and anti-inflammatory compounds.”).
Time: 15 minutes
- Four medium-to-large bananas, frozen. Tip: Select yellow, well-ripened bananas for a sweeter flavour and easier blending. Remove peel and slice or break into large chunks before freezing.
- 2 tablespoons natural almond butter (or cashew or peanut), chunky or smooth, salted or unsalted
- ¼ cup shredded coconut
- 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
- Optional: ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Place frozen banana chunks in a food processor (using S-blade) or high-speed blender and blend continuously on high setting.
2. Occasionally scrape down the sides and continue blending until smooth, light and creamy (approximately four to six minutes).
3. Add coconut oil, nut butter, shredded coconut, and (optional) vanilla and blend again on lower setting — just enough to evenly distribute ingredients.
4. Transfer mixture into a shallow glass tray. Use the back of a spoon or spatula to spread out the mixture evenly.
5. Cover with an airtight lid and freeze for at least 1 hour before serving
Cinnamon and Chilli-Scented Cacao*
Courtesy of Como Shambala
“Often in the evening, we crave for something sweet and ‘chocolate-y’,” says Persak. This hot cacao is designed to satisfy the sweet tooth, making for an impeccably healthy substitute for processed, powdered hot cocoa sachets. “It’s also dairy-free, which is helpful for sensitive stomachs before bedtime,” Persak notes.
The beverage’s raw dark chocolate is high in antioxidants, and while it does naturally contain caffeine, it’s also rich in magnesium, which can help relax the body. The spritz of chilli powder adds both a bit of punch to the taste and anti-inflammatory effects.
Time: 10 minutes
- 2 tablespoons cacao nibs
- 500 millilitres (2 cups) almond nut milk
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 pinch chilli powder
- 3 tablespoons coconut nectar
- 1 pinch sea salt
1. Place all the ingredients in a blender and process until combined.
2. Transfer the mixture to a saucepan and heat gently over a low to medium heat until warm, then serve.
To talk to Eve Persak, book a nutritional therapy session through Como Shambala Urban Escape.
Subscribe to our newsletter