Comforting and warming, gut healthy main meal recipes

Love Your Gut has shared some comforting and warming, gut healthy main meal recipes, perfect for the colder months.

Greek Style Tomato and Bean Stew

This is a delicious, one pot, vegetarian dish. It also improves once cooked if left for a while before eating.

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This stew contains a glorious mix of vegetables which are known to promote gut health. Eating a diverse range of plant foods increases the variety of beneficial microbes in the gut. Gut microbes are key to supporting many aspects of human health including immune, metabolic and neurological functions. Olive oil can have positive effects on gut microbiota due to the high levels of polyphenols they contain. Bacteria in the gut can transform polyphenols into useful biologically active compounds that influence the body’s immune system and many other aspects of health.

Bean stew

Preparation - 15 min

Cooking time – 30 minutes

Serves 4


One pot pasta

1 onion, sliced

2 tbsp virgin olive oil

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 tsp ground cumin

Chicken meatballs

1 tsp ground cinnamon

2 bay leaves

2 tbsp chopped parsley

1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped

2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes

1 tbsp tomato purée

2 x 400g tins butter beans drained and rinsed

300g green beans, ends trimmed

Juice and zest of half a lemon

150g crumbled feta (leave out feta for vegan dish)

30g pine nuts


Place the onion in a large, wide pan and drizzle with a little olive oil. Sweat the onion for 5 minutes until soft. Add the garlic, spices and herbs, reserving a little of the parsley to finish the dish.

Turn up the heat and add the chopped tomatoes and tomato purée allowing the stew to come up to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir in the butter beans, green beans, lemon zest and lemon juice, and cook for a further 10 minutes. Cover the pan at this stage if you can otherwise stir to ensure the green beans cook through.

Serve the tomato and bean stew in bowls with crumbled feta cheese, pine nuts and a sprinkling of parsley.

Alternative serving suggestion

Any green vegetable can be substituted for the green beans for example, broccoli spears or asparagus.

This dish can be part of a tapas style meal served with bowls of freshly cooked prawns or chicken.

Cooks tips

Use 500g of chopped fresh tomatoes instead of tinned chopped tomatoes.

Any leftovers from this dish can be eaten the following day as the flavours improve over time.

One pot pasta and pearl barley bake with preserved lemon, capers and olives

This great one pot meal is made mainly from store cupboard ingredients and is ideal for weekday suppers. It can also be made in advance and reheated.

Plants are important ingredients for the health of the gut. They contain dietary fibre, complex carbohydrates and phytochemicals which act like a ‘fertiliser’ in the gut; helping healthy bacteria to thrive and become more diverse.

Pearl barley is a whole grain containing dietary fibre. Olives are a fermented food rich in lactobacillus and polyphenols which also promote the health of the gut.

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 60 minutes

Serves 4


1 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, peeled and finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

½ tsp chilli flakes (optional)

2 tbsp capers

1 tbsp of preserved lemon, flesh discarded and skin chopped

70g pitted kalamata olives, roughly torn in half

1 tbsp tomato paste

1 tin chopped tomatoes

125g pearl barley

125g orzo

1-2 plum tomatoes (180g), cut into ½cm-thick rounds

40g Parmesan cheese, grated, or non-dairy hard cheese for the vegan version of this recipe

Salt and black pepper

1 1/2 tbsp basil leaves, roughly torn


Heat the oven to 220C /Fan oven 200C/Gas mark 7.

Put one tablespoon of oil into a large, ovenproof pan for which you have a lid, and heat gently. Add the onion and cook until softened and browned slightly. Add the garlic and chilli, if using, and cook for a minute more before stirring in the capers, half the preserved lemon and olives, tomato paste, tinned tomatoes, pearl barley and 450ml water. Bring the contents of the pan to a simmer, cover and cook for ten minutes. Remove the lid and add the orzo, transfer the pan to the oven for 20 minutes. Lift the lid off the pan and check the orzo and pearl barley is cooked. If not cook for a little longer. Add a little more liquid if required.

Haphazardly top the mixture with the sliced tomatoes, sprinkle over the cheese and return to the oven, uncovered, for 10 -12 minutes, or until bubbling and lightly browned. Remove from the oven and top with the remaining olives, preserved lemon and torn basil. Season with a little sea salt and black pepper and serve straight from the pot.

Cooks tip

To make your own quick version of preserved lemons: thinly slice two washed, unwaxed lemons. Cover with a tablespoon of salt and leave for 30 minutes. Pack the slices, plus the salty juices, into a small sterilised glass jar and cover with a layer of olive oil. The lemons will be ready to use after a day and for up to one month after the jar has been opened.


A can of tuna and a few anchovies can be added to this dish if you are not looking for a vegetarian option.

Chicken meatballs with oriental greens, lime and ginger

This is a quick to make, low fat dish containing the soothing flavour of ginger. Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is widely used as a spice and an ingredient in traditional herbal medicine. The rhizome of ginger has been shown in clinical studies to help relieve gastrointestinal discomforts, nausea and vomiting.

Bok choy is a dark green vegetable containing dietary fibre and polyphenols which are beneficial for the health of the gut.

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Serves 4


400g minced chicken

2 garlic cloves, finely grated

2cm root ginger, peeled and finely grated, plus 4 thin slices the thickness of a pound coin

1 tbsp soy sauce

4 spring onions, trimmed and finely chopped

1.2L chicken stock

1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped (optional)[9]

2 tbsp rapeseed oil

2 heads of bok choy, leaves separated and halved lengthways

Juice of 1 lime


Mix together the minced chicken, garlic and grated ginger, soy sauce and half the spring onions. Take walnut sized amounts of the mixture, shape into balls and place them neatly on a plate. If you have time, cover the chicken balls with cling film and chill them in the fridge for half an hour before cooking. This makes them easier to handle.

Heat the oil in a wok or medium sized saucepan and cook the chicken balls in two batches, turning them over to make sure they are lightly browned all over. Transfer the chicken balls to a plate using a slotted spoon. There is no need to wash the pan at this point as the residue from cooking the chicken will add flavour to the dish.

Add the stock to the wok/saucepan pan and bring to a simmer. Add the browned chicken balls and ginger slices and cook for three minutes. Add the bok choy, remaining spring onions and chilli (if using) and cook for another five minutes. The meatballs should be cooked through and the bok choy tender. Add the lime juice a little at a time, tasting as you go. Season to taste. Serve with steamed rice or noodles.

Cooks tip

If you can’t find minced chicken, use skinless chicken thighs and mince them in a food processor. The minced chicken is easier to roll into balls if you wet your hands.

The recipes courtesy of Dr Joan Ransley for Love Your Gut

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