When you’re feeling down, good, nutritious food can make all the difference. Simple, filling meals like soups are among convalescents’ favorites, as are nutritious casseroles, while some swear by foods with a spicy kick to relieve blockages. Fluid is important, as is food, which gives you energy and provides essential vitamins and minerals.
Unfortunately, there is no miracle meal that provides a quick fix when you are ill. But with Covid cases on the rise again in the UK and seasonal lurgies still making the rounds, we asked chefs which dishes they turn to when they’re feeling unwell.
Fried chicken with lentils and kale
Tamal RayDoctor, TV presenter and finalist of the Great British Bake Off 2015
When I’m sick, I eat simple things: my mother used to make me mashed potatoes with basmati rice. I also have a chicken dish that I make after being sick to get back on track. I roast a chicken in a large 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 broth to cook the lentils. Then I sauté 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 yogurt.
Fish curry with corn
Nokx MajoziChef cake baker at the Holborn dining roomLondon
When I’m not feeling well, I like to make a soothing fish curry with corn. There are some great health benefits: the fish is high in protein, the corn (you can also use polenta) provides fiber, and the ginger and garlic are known for their antioxidants. This meal also has great sentimental value – it reminds me of standing in the kitchen as a child with my late father, who used to cook it for us. I’m from Durban in South Africa and he used to work in the port next to the fishmonger. He used to come home often with fresh fish for dinner, so it’s a nice memory.
Stuart GilliesChef and co-owner of number eightseven oaks
When I’m not feeling well I usually eat broth and ramen – there’s so much good in there. I use dashi stock and bonito flakes as a base – then you can add whatever you want: herbs (freshly picked and roughly chopped), soft-boiled eggs, salmon or cod, chicken or beef, soybeans, peas, broccoli – anything is possible . Then we cook and add udon noodles and sprinkle with togarashi (seven spice mix) or chilli oil. You’ll feel like you’ll be healthier by eating it! It’s really delicious. We are a family of 6 so I do it for all of us when the weather is bad.
Chicken soup with ginseng
Judy Joo, top boss and co-founder of Seoul birdLondon
I’m a big fan of hearty soups and stews when I’m not feeling well, and have perfected my recipe for Chicken Soup with Ginseng. You simply stuff an entire corn-fed poussin with dried ginseng, sweet rice, jujube, garlic, and other oriental herbs, then cook it in a large pan of water for two to three hours until the flesh is tender. Serve with freshly chopped spring onions. It warms you from the inside and hugs your soul. I also make lots of bone broth and slurp my health back up! To drink, I usually have a cup of hot water with fresh lemon, sliced ginger, and manuka honey.
Canned tomatoes on toast with grated cheese
Lisa Goodwin Allen, executive chef at The Gamebird in StaffordLondon
When I’m sick, I want something savory. I often reach for homemade soups and broths, but my guilty pleasure is canned tomatoes on toast with shredded cheese. You want tiger bread or sourdough, nicely toasted and buttered. Heat the canned tomatoes until piping hot, then place on the toast and sprinkle with grated cheese – I’d recommend a Lancashire cheese – and some salt. It’s quick, easy and not too difficult. If you’re not feeling 100%, you can omit the cheese and butter and it will still make you want to eat. I would drink it with a cup of green tea.
Nikhil Mahalechef at Farzi CafeLondon
I can’t remember the last time I was ill – but when I’m ill I really like to eat an Indian soup made from lamb’s feet called paya. You cook the trotters for six to eight hours, then add onions, turmeric, toasted cumin, lots of fresh black pepper, and you can also add red chilli powder and tomatoes. It is a yellowish soup flavored with trotters’ bone marrow. It’s spicy, but it’s really good and it takes all the chill out of your body. We also serve pav bread baked in a wood-fired oven. I also like to eat chicken ghee roast with whole grain rotis and chapatis.
Thai Tom Yum soup
Luke French, Executive Chef and Owner of GeorgeSheffeld
When I’m feeling down, I make a hot and sour Thai tom yum soup. I start by making a really hot and flavorful red Thai curry paste that I simmer in coconut oil, then add chicken broth and a touch of coconut milk. Then I add fresh lime juice and rice wine vinegar to sour it and a little bit of palm and powdered sugar. To this I add shredded chicken or shrimp and lots of fresh vegetables: broccoli, bok choy, snow peas, broccoli, sweetcorn – anything. I add the veggies at the end for 30-40 seconds so they’re nice and crunchy and packed with nutrients. At this time of year I also add a handful of wild garlic.
Beans on toast with pesto and parmesan
Shaun RankinHead Patron at Grantley Hall, Ripon
When I’m sick, a quick and easy meal is baked beans on toast with pesto and parmesan. Boil the beans (I use Heinz), then add a dollop of pesto, grated Parmesan and butter, mix well and then place on nice, crunchy sourdough toast. It’s feel-good food. I’m a tea drinker, but when I’m sick, it’s Lemsip and Berocca. I had Covid in January last year and lost my sense of taste and smell so I fueled my body with hot oatmeal and lots of homemade leek and potato soup. I had to add a lot of spice and garlic to get any flavor out.
asked Gohil, chef-owner of Silk Road DelI, Glasgow
My favorite dish is kadhi, a spiced, sour yogurt soup. My family is from Gujarat where we eat it with sautéed okra. You start by heating whole spices: mustard seeds, cumin, curry leaves, a stick of cinnamon, and whole black peppercorns. They also add freshly grated ginger and turmeric for that healthy, good vibes. Mix natural yoghurt separately with chickpea flour and then add to the spices along with a few cups of water. It gets thick and velvety, with lots of warmth and depth. 10 minutes before serving, add the sautéed okra and top with fresh cilantro, a squeeze of chili oil, and a squeeze of lemon.
Daniel Watkinss, co-founder of Acme Fire CultLondon
Outside of work, I tend to cook more plant-based, and when I’m feeling down, I eat lots of greens: broccoli, kale, and spinach are my go-tos. Don’t blanch them – just cook them with a little oil and a splash or water in a hot pan with a lid to preserve all the goodness. I top it with nuts and seeds and a TMT (tahini, miso, turmeric) dressing that really packs a punch. When you’re sick, you need to drink plenty of water to flush your system — but I’m a coffee fanatic, so I’d still drink coffee.