New year resolutions (read 'guilt') often leads us to eating better - but why make it a penitence? Healthy can still be tasty, say Jasmine and Melissa Hemsley - and this delicious mungo recipe proves it
Our digestive systems are groaning. Isn't yours? After all that Christmas food - the special cheeses, smoked salmon, and booze, the rich puds - our bodies could certainly do with a break.
And a break they will get. It's a new year. For us, the delicious laziness of the festive period has segued into an urge for change, for renewal and resolutions. This is a good time to clear the cupboards, declutter and, as tradition has it, clean out a bit of the old you. So we're starting 2015 eating well, with meals that nourish without compromising on flavour. There's kale in 10 Best and this week, as well as a good dose of beans and broth from us.
Too often people separate having fun and eating well. We have always integrated the two. Our mum is Filipino and we grew up spending time in a community of "aunties" (a term not necessarily for relations, but for any friends held dear) in home kitchens. There was always lots of chatter and gossiping, often singing along to someone on a guitar and, on celebratory days, "Magic Mike", AKA karaoke. A constant throughout all of this, and ideal for feeding a crowd, were traditional one-pot dishes like tinola (a chicken and green papaya soup), sinigang (a tamarind-based soup/stew), adobo (a departure from the Spanish style - here meat is stewed in vinegar) and mungo: a mung bean soup.
Mung beans. We know what you're thinking. Mung beans have come to typify hippy cooking, too often sniffed at for their overstated health-giving properties and blandness. OK, these small green legumes are packed with a very high level of protein that's easy to digest; yes, in Ayurveda, a bowl of mung is used for cleansing and fasting; and yes, in Chinese medicine they are believed to help with skin conditions, clear excess body heat and toxins. But does that mean they can't taste good? No! Does it mean they should be written off as a bland fuel for worthy new-age types? Of course not!
A hot bowl of mungo has become our go-to-meal precisely at times like the new year, when you're in need of recovery. In the summer, we made up batches for friends after they had been to festivals, to help nurse them back to feeling good. And that's the other thing: blissfully, you can cook it in batches - if you're anything like us, "cook once, eat many times" is always a winning strategy.
This gorgeously vibrant Filipino soup-stew of mung beans, enriched with meat stock, coconut milk, ginger and leafy greens is a long-term favourite of Jasmine's and one that Melissa has finally got her head around (you'll see when you make it that this isn't the most photogenic of dishes - try not to judge on appearances!).
The mung beans are cooked with pork ribs, prawns or both, and leafy greens, usually malunggay in the Philippines, a native root that resembles horseradish, thought to have medicinal properties. Otherwise known as moringa, or miracle tree, malunggay is such good stuff that it can now be bought in powdered form: it's the new "superfood" on the block. Like bitter melon, it's an acquired taste but, given it doesn't grow here, kale, spinach, Swiss chard, and even beetroot or turnip tops would be good substitutes.
So many of our Filipino aunties made mungo for us that, ironically, we've never made it authentically ourselves. Why would we have done when they already do it so well? However, we do make a storecupboard version that is a doddle to make for anyone trying mungo for the first time: it's super-simple and an ideal restorative.
The only thing you need to buy fresh are the greens, otherwise it's simply a packet of mung, to which we add a tin of full-fat, creamy coconut milk, onions, garlic and ginger (perennial staples in our cupboards and fridge).
For us, mungo is a comfort food that nurtures with its gentle coconutty sweetness and ginger kick. It's a dependable dish that leaves you feeling light and clean. We tend to go to town on the ginger, which has anti-inflammatory properties - just the ticket for over-exerted stomachs - and slice it into rounds for speed, and because we like to chew on them. For a subtler flavour, grate your ginger in. Be generous with the onions and garlic too - they are rich in sulphuric compounds so, once again, they will leave you feeling brilliantly cleansed.
Be sure to soak the mung beans - overnight if possible - as it makes them easier to digest. It also means they will cook more quickly. Double up the recipe if you like - you will be very pleased with yourself when you come home late from work on a cold, dark night and you remember you've got a little pot of this waiting for you in the fridge or freezer.
Better yet, this recipe makes a gorgeous hot lunch at work - just get a 500ml Thermos and you'll have saved yourself your lunch money and put a whole lot of goodness in your belly.
500g mung beans, soaked overnight in double their volume of water
1 1/2 tbsp of coconut oil, ghee, butter or dripping
1 large/2 medium onions, halved and then finely sliced
2 thumb-sized pieces of ginger (or more!), skin-on if organic, sliced in thin rounds or finely chopped/grated
1 Heat the coconut oil in a pan over a medium heat and saute the onions, ginger and garlic for about 8 minutes, or until the onion softens.
2 Add the rinsed and drained mung beans, coconut milk and bone broth/water, then bring to a medium simmer for 40-60 minutes, or until the mung beans are tender - add a further cup of water/bone broth if needed, to get your desired consistency.
3 Add the tamari and pepper, to taste.
4 Towards the end of cooking, chop the greens, add to the pan and simmer until tender - if you're only making enough for yourself, add the greens to the pan and cook fresh every time you reheat a bowl of mungo.
Ginger, coconut and garlic combine in this moreish mung bean soup - perfect for new-year recovery mode... Photograph: Elena Heatherwick/Guardian