Monday, 30 November -0001

A Plateful of Sunshine

MasterChef winner Shelina Permalloo’s tasty, bright and breezy recipes can help you lose weight and feel great

Written by Shelina Permalloo
Winning MasterChef in 2012 was one of the best experiences of my life. I remember John Torode and Gregg Wallace describing my food as ‘sunshine on a plate’ and that I was ‘a restaurant waiting to happen’. I called my first cookbook Sunshine On A Plate and opened my restaurant in Southampton in February 2015. In the MasterChef final, John and Gregg asked me what I wanted my food to ‘do’. I said that I would like them to eat my food and feel transported to their favourite holiday destination, to feel the sun beating down on them and sand between their toes, with the best holiday food in front of them. This is the sort of food I’ve always loved to cook.

After MasterChef, it was a hectic couple of years but I loved every minute. When there are so many positives in your life, there is likely to be a negative and for me it was weight gain. It can be easy to get distracted by all the other things going on and stop paying attention to what and how much you’re eating. I knew I needed to get a healthy balance back and to find a way to have my cake and eat it – so I made some changes. I found that eating four to five small meals throughout the day worked best for me. In my new book, you will find the recipes I created and used to help me get back into shape and look and feel better. In the process of writing the book I lost over three stone. Now I feel great, my skin glows, my hair feels strong and I have so much energy. I hope my recipes do the same for you.

The Sunshine Diet, by Shelina Permalloo, with photography by Martin Poole, is published by Ebury Press, Trade Paperback, priced £14.99.

Beef with Lemon Grass and Sichuan Pepper (pictured above)

Serves 4
Per serving: calories, 340; fat, 10g; sugar, none

150g dried rice vermicelli noodles
1 tbsp vegetable oil
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3cm piece of fresh root ginger, peeled and chopped
1 lemon grass stalk, trimmed and finely chopped
1 long red chilli, finely chopped
500g lean sirloin steak (trimmed of fat), thinly sliced
1 tbsp Sichuan pepper
2 tbsp fish sauce
4 spring onions, coarsely chopped
Handful each of freshly chopped or torn basil, coriander and mint leaves
Juice of 1 lime

Place the noodles in a heatproof bowl, cover with boiling water and leave to soak for around 5 mins (or according to packet instructions) until tender, then drain and cool.

Heat the oil in a wok over a high heat, add the garlic, ginger, lemon grass and chilli and stir-fry for 30 seconds.

Add the beef and Sichuan pepper and stir-fry for a few minutes, or until the beef is browned all over – you don’t want to overcook it.

Add the fish sauce, toss in the noodles, spring onions and herbs, then remove from the heat. Turn out onto a big platter, squeeze over the lime juice and serve.

Frozen Watermelon with Minted Sugar

Serves 8
Per serving: calories, 124; fat, none; sugar, 28g


1 medium watermelon, peeled and sliced into small wedges
120g unrefined golden caster sugar
Large handful of mint leaves
Wooden ice-lolly sticks (or reusable ice-lolly bases)

Push a wooden lolly stick (or a reusable ice-lolly base) into the base of each watermelon wedge. Place on a tray and freeze overnight.

Using a pestle and mortar, bash the sugar and mint leaves together until you turn the sugar a brilliant green colour.

Remove the frozen watermelon wedges from the freezer and lay them on a large serving platter. Sprinkle over the minted sugar and serve.

Roasted Aubergines with Fennel and Labneh

Serves 4
Per serving: calories, 160; fat, 5g; sugar, 10g


1 tsp salt
450g 0% fat Greek-style yogurt
1 tbsp nigella seeds 
1 red chilli, finely chopped (deseed if you just want the flavour and not the heat)
Bunch of freshly chopped mint leaves
2 large aubergines
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp fennel seeds

To make the labneh, mix the salt into the yogurt – you can do this in the yogurt tub to save on washing up. Take a piece of clean muslin and spoon the yogurt into the centre of it. Gather the muslin and tie it up, then hang it over a bowl and place in the fridge. You then need to leave this for 12 hours to allow the whey (liquid) to separate from the yogurt.

After 12 hours, turn out the labneh into a clean bowl (discard the whey) and mix through the nigella seeds, chilli and mint. Set aside in the fridge while you roast the aubergines.

Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Slice the aubergines in half lengthways and rub all over with the oil, then sprinkle with the fennel seeds. Place on a baking tray, cut side up. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 mins until the aubergine flesh begins to collapse and the skin starts to blacken and burst.

Serve the warm roasted aubergines with the labneh alongside. Garnish with a little extra chilli, mint and nigella seeds, if you like.

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