IT’S always difficult to get back into the swing of things in January, especially after all the excess that the Christmas holiday brings.

Most people (myself included) try to start the year with a more positive and healthy outlook which generally means losing a few pounds and taking the time to prepare some healthy and nourishing meals.

And then there’s always the seasonal lurgy doing the rounds, ready to catch us unawares. Feeling under the weather is the last thing I need when we have a busy restaurant to run.

One of my go-to meals when I feel the need for fresh and nutritious comfort food has got to be a steaming bowl of chicken soup, which warms the heart and satisfies the stomach. However, unlike traditional chicken soup recipes, mine is jam-packed full of healthy vegetables which makes it ideal for the January dieters and detoxers, being both low in fat and calories and high in protein.

The vegetables also give you a decent dose of vitamins and fibre which is always good in the winter months to help ward of colds and flu.

Because this soup is full of vegetables and protein it really is a meal in itself and is ideal to take to work for lunch or to serve as a quick, tasty supper. It is a light yet extremely substantial meal and always a big hit in the cold winter months, especially when can make a batch of it for the whole family to enjoy.

I usually make a big pan of it at the weekend and everyone helps themselves – it never lasts very long!

The added bonus is that this dish is incredibly simple and inexpensive to prepare, however I’d recommend spending a little more on the chicken and buy the best you can afford. Providing the chicken is fresh, it’ll keep in the fridge for a couple of days too.

Nourishing Chicken Soup

Ingredients (serves 4-6)

1 whole, medium sized chicken, skin removed.

4 carrots

1 large onion

1 head of celery

1 leek

1 bay leaf

1 savoy cabbage

Cold water

3 tbsp. olive oil

Place the chicken in a large, deep pan and completely cover with cold water. Add one carrot, half the onion, a stick of celery and the bay leaf. Season with a little salt and pepper and bring to the boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat and allow to vigorously simmer for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, chop the remaining vegetables (except the cabbage) into small cubes. Heat the oil in a large pan and gently sauté for five minutes.

Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside to rest. Strain the liquid (which has now become a tasty stock).

Add the sautéed vegetables to the stock and bring back to the boil. Simmer for 10 minutes.

While the vegetables are cooking, roughly tear the chicken up into small pieces before adding to the broth.

Lastly, slice the cabbage into thin strips and add to the pan. Cook for a final five minutes and check the seasoning. Best serving piping hot with some fresh bread.