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Dublin: 12°C Sunday 3 July 2022

Chef Shane Rigney shares a recipe to help you get fit and healthy this winter

The Dublin chef is also asking us to spare a thought for our local cafes and restaurants as Level 3 takes hold around the country.

Shane Rigney

IT’S JANUARY 2020 and you’re busy making plans for the year ahead, thinking about the direction you want to take your business in. 

As with all resolutions and new year promises, it’s often March before your ass is in gear and the wind hits your sail. Of course, then, life being what it is, along comes a global pandemic to knock you off your feet.

The subsequent months of isolation, weirdness, reflection and introspection were a ‘keep your head above water’ mess in our industry, not without some surprising positives but we’ve had that conversation.

Now it’s October and if you’re anything like me, you’ll be pining for some semblance of normality and craving long lost routines and rituals like a good aul dance in a sweaty nightclub, dinner in town with the option of a party afterwards.

Life in the time of Covid

Even better, if you’re a singleton like me, the chance of a date, a proper old fashioned, flirty fun date with some actual human contact (because Tinder is just not cutting it). The food part is coming, in case you’re wondering where all this is going?

Most of us feel about as desirable as a bucket of cold soup after a year in which your local pizza place became the most dialled number in the phone or the only strutting done is the walk of shame to the bottle bank – a clandestine run after dark at that.

So the inevitable question of diet and a hefty shuffle back up onto the wagon beckons, at least that’s what I’m hearing from customers daily in Riggers D8 and with that being about the only thing we can control, I started my own health kick a couple of weeks back.

In fairness, as we hit the ‘god only knows’ phase in relation to what Winter will bring and even more uncertainty of what Covid during ‘cold’ season will look like, it’s probably time to start nourishing and nurturing ourselves in a slightly more holistic way than the nightly G&T binge 2020 has so far offered.

shane holidays Shane is aiming to eat well and get fit throughout the long Covid winter. Source: Shane Rigney

Not that I’m remotely against indulgence – and diet penury does not a merry lockdown make. However, the aforementioned return to normality starts at home, with little changes that shouldn’t overwhelm the already overwhelmed.

And whilst there were the rare few who took lockdown as a chance to ramp up their diet and fitness game, the rest of us took solace in fat, carbs, sugar and booze in isolation.

And so to that kick start. Start slow, start small, get back in the saddle with subtle sustainable changes. Nutrition is vital for our physical health and with so many of us suffering a sliding scale of mental health battering, do not underestimate the effect that good nutrition has on that too.

Nutrition is about longevity, wellbeing and staying nourished, not about being skinny. Now more than ever, we need to inch back to that kind of homeostasis to stay somewhat sane.

For now, spare a thought for all the cafes, restaurants and the staff within them this winter, especially this weekend in the wake of Level 3 and in the face of possible Level 5. It’s been a hell of a year for so many, but we in the hospitality industry have been changing the way we work almost weekly at this stage.

I hope we can hold our own this winter and keep the doors open. Outdoor seating is indeed a godsend and if the temperamental Irish weather could just go easy on us, we’ll manage. For now, can I urge you all to support your local eateries in whatever way you can, it’s the difference between surviving 2020 for some and not.

riggers on the road Source: Riggers D8

So here’s one of my favourite go-to dinner recipes that’s a quick and easy one to make. I cooked it on Ireland AM a couple of weeks back: my speedy Sweet Potato & Lentil Dahl.

This dish is pure salving, healing sunshine in a bowl and is just great for gut health, which provides a helping hand with the brain-boosting. So get cooking your way to a happier you and save the vino for Saturday night only.

Shane’s Recipe

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Speedy Coconut Lentil, Spinach & Sweet Potato Dahl

Ingredients: Serves 4

  • 2 tins or pouches of Puy Lentils or Red lentils 

  • 1 tin of Coconut Milk

  • 1 tin of chopped Tomatoes

  • 1 tsp. Of dried Cumin, Turmeric, Coriander & Paprika

  • 4 cloves of garlic minced

  • 1 medium white onion peeled and finely diced

  • 1 thumb-size piece of fresh ginger peeled and minced

  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed

  • 1 bag of washed baby spinach leaves

  • Juice of 2 limes

  • A large bunch of fresh coriander coarsely chopped

  • A couple of spring onions cut on the diagonal

  • Sea Salt & Black Pepper to taste

  • A tbsp of coconut oil and 100g of butter

  • 2 wholemeal pita or naan toasted and roughly torn for dipping


  1. Steam or boil your sweet potato in for 10 mins until just soft and leave aside. Boil in salted boiling water over medium-high heat or steam over boiling water with a lid.

  2. In a large frying pan or heavy saucepan, saute the onion, garlic and ginger over medium heat in the coconut oil until just soft but not coloured

  3. Add the spices and allow to gently fry with until just releasing their oils for one minute

  4. Add the drained lentils, tomato and coconut milk and bubble for 5 mins allowing the liquid to reduce and thicken, stirring everything regularly 

  5. Add the sweet potato and spinach and stir into the dahl gently. Allow everything to come together over a low heat for a couple of minutes

  6. Just before serving, add the lime, coriander and season generously to taste

  7. If a little dry(it shouldn’t be with the coconut and tomato) add a little kettle water to loosen, stir in the butter allowing it to just melt and create a silky finish

  8. Serve in bowls with some sprinkled with more coriander, spring onion and the toasted bread on side.

This is an ideal veggie, protein-packed dish alone or delicious with fish or chicken.

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About the author:

Shane Rigney

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