‘It hugs your soul!’ 10 dishes to get you fighting fit after an illness, from ramen noodles to spicy tom yum soup | Food

When you are feeling under the weather, eating good, nutritious food can make all the difference. Simple, comforting dishes, such as soup, are a firm favorite among the convalescing, as are nourishing casseroles, while some people swear by meals with a spicy kick when they are feeling blocked up. Fluids are important, as are foods that will give you energy and provide essential vitamins and minerals.

Sadly, there is no miracle dish to provide a quick fix when you are sick. But, with Covid cases on the rise once again in the UK, and seasonal lurgies still doing the rounds too, we asked chefs about the meals they turn to when they are unwell.

Roast chicken with lentils and kale. Photograph: Cavan Images / Getty Images / Cavan Images RF

Roast chicken with lentils and kale

Tamal Raydoctor, TV presenter and 2015 Great British Bake Off finalist

When I’m ill, I eat simple stuff: my mum used to make me mashed potatoes with basmati rice. I also have a chicken dish I make after I’ve been ill, to get back on track. I roast a chicken in a big tray, along with onions and garlic in a separate tray. Once the chicken is cooked, I take it out and pour some boiling water into the tray to make a stock to cook the lentils in. Then I steam kale, stir it into the cooked lentils along with the onions and garlic, and serve with the chicken on the side and a spoonful of Greek yoghurt.

Nokx Majozi's fish curry with maize.
Nokx Majozi’s fish curry with maize. Photograph: Courtesy of Holborn Dining Room

Fish curry with maize

Nokx Majozichief pie-maker at the Holborn Dining RoomLondon

When I’m not feeling well, I like to make a comforting fish curry with maize. There are some great health benefits: the fish is high in protein, the maize (you can also use polenta) provides fiber, and ginger and garlic are known for their antioxidants. This meal also has a lot of sentimental value – it reminds me of being in the kitchen as a child with my late father, who used to make it for us. I’m from Durban in South Africa, and he worked in the harbor, next to the fishmonger. He often used to come home with fresh fish for dinner, so it’s a fond memory.

Ramen noodles

Stuart Gillieschef and co-owner of Number EightSevenoaks

When I’m unwell, I usually go for broth and ramen – you get so much goodness in there. I use dashi stock and bonito flakes as the base – then you can add whatever you want: herbs (freshly picked and coarsely chopped), soft boiled eggs, salmon or cod, chicken or beef, soya beans, peas, broccoli – anything goes. Then we cook and add udon noodles, and top with togarashi (seven-spice mix) or chilli oil. You feel as if you’re getting healthier as you eat it! It’s really delicious. We’re a family of six, so I make it for all of us when we’re under the weather.

Ginseng chicken soup

Judy Joo, chef patron and co-founder of Seoul BirdLondon

I’m a big fan of hearty soups and stews when I’m not feeling well, and I have perfected my ginseng chicken soup recipe. You simply stuff a whole, corn-fed poussin with dried ginseng, sweet rice, jujube fruit, garlic and other oriental herbs, then boil in a large pan with water for two to three hours until the meat is soft. Serve with freshly chopped spring onions. It warms you from within and hugs your soul. I also make a lot of bone broth and slurp my way back to health! To drink, I’ll usually go for a cup of hot water with fresh lemon, ginger slices and manuka honey.

Tinned tomatoes on toast with grated cheese

Lisa Goodwin-Allen, executive head chef at The Gamebird at the StaffordLondon

When I’m sick, I want something hearty. I often turn to homemade soups and broths, but my guilty pleasure is tinned tomatoes on toast with grated cheese. You want tiger bread or sourdough, nicely toasted and buttered. Heat the tinned tomatoes until piping hot, then place them on the toast and top with grated cheese – I’d recommend a lancashire cheese – and a little bit of salt. It’s quick, easy and not too heavy. If you’re not feeling 100% you can leave out the cheese and butter and it will still get you eating something. I’d have it with a cup of green tea.

Paya soup, made with lamb trotters and spices.
Paya soup, made with lamb trotters and spices. Photograph: Hyderabad / Alamy

Paya

Nikhil Mahalehead chef at Farzi CaféLondon

I don’t remember the last time I was ill – but, when I am, I really like to eat an Indian soup made from lambs’ trotters, called paya. You boil the trotters for six to eight hours, then add onion, turmeric, roasted cumin, a lot of fresh black pepper, and you can also add red chilli powder and tomatoes. It’s a yellow-ish soup, flavored by the bone marrow from the trotters. It is spicy, but it’s really good and it takes all the cold from your body. We serve it with pav bread, baked in a wood-fired oven. I also like to eat chicken ghee roast with wholewheat rotis and chapatis.

Thai tom yum soup.
Thai tom yum soup. Photograph: Edalin / Alamy

Thai tom yum soup

Luke French, chef-owner of JöroSheffield

Whenever I’m poorly, I make a hot and sour Thai tom yum soup. I start by making a really spicy and aromatic Thai red curry paste, which I cook down in coconut oil, then add chicken stock and a touch of coconut milk. Then I add fresh lime juice and rice wine vinegar to make it sour, and a little palm and caster sugar. To that, I’ll add shredded chicken or prawns and loads of fresh vegetables: broccoli, pak choi, mangetout, broccoli, sweetcorn – anything. I add the veg for 30-40 seconds at the end, so it’s nice and crunchy and full of nutrients. At this time of year, I also add handfuls of wild garlic.

Beans on toast with pesto and parmesan

Shaun Rankinchef patron at Grantley Hall, Ripon

When I’m ill, a quick and easy meal is baked beans on toast with pesto and parmesan. Cook the beans (I use Heinz), then add a dollop of pesto, grated parmesan and butter, give it a good mix, then place on nice, crunchy, sourdough toast. It’s feel-good food. I’m a tea drinker, but if I’m ill, it’s Lemsip and Berocca. I had Covid in January last year, and lost my sense of taste and smell, so I was fueling my body with hot porridge and batches of homemade leek and potato soup. I had to add lots of seasoning and garlic to get any flavor out of it.

Kadhi - a spiced, sour yoghurt soup.
Kadhi – a spiced, sour yoghurt soup. Photograph: Deepak Verma / Alamy

Kadhi

Tanya Gohil, chef-owner of Silk Road Deli, Glasgow

My go-to dish is kadhi, which is essentially spiced, sour yoghurt soup. My family is from Gujarat, where we have it with sautéed okra. You start off by heating whole spices: mustard seeds, cumin seeds, curry leaves, a cinnamon stick and whole black peppercorns. You also add freshly grated ginger and turmeric for that wholesome-goodness vibe. Separately, mix natural yoghurt with chickpea flour, then add to the spices along with a couple of cups of water. It becomes thick and velvety, with lots of warmth and depth. Add in the sautéed okra 10 minutes before serving and top with fresh coriander, a drizzle of chilli oil and a spritz of lemon.

Stir-fried greens.
Stir-fried greens. Photograph: VivianG / Getty Images / iStockphoto

Stir-fried greens

Daniel Watkins, co-founder of Acme Fire CultLondon

Away from work, the food I cook is quite plant-based and if I’m unwell, I want lots of greens: broccoli, curly kale and spinach are my go-tos. Don’t blanch them – just cook with a little oil and a splash or water in a hot, lidded pan to retain all the goodness. I top with nuts and seeds, and a TMT (tahini, miso, turmeric) dressing which really packs a punch. When you’re ill, you have to drink loads of water to flush your system out – but I’m a coffee fiend, so I would still have coffee.

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