Runner’s recipes with Sarah - Chilli

A bonfire favourite, there are few meals that warm the bones quite so well as a big bowl of chilli. As the nights draw in it's well worth having some of these versatile, fiery red peppers in your culinary armoury to add a boost of to your evening meals. The benefits of chillies are well-recognized, but here's a recap of some of chillies' best effects:   

Weight loss

You will have heard numerous times that chillies are one of the few substances that can help peak the metabolism. The heat that you feel after eating chillies takes energy to produce, and this energy comes from calories, known as 'thermogenesis'.


Chilli peppers contain capsaicin, which is a potent inhibitor of inflammation, so a very helpful ingredient after an intense workout.


Chillies can reduce blood cholesterol, triglyceride levels and platelet aggregation, whilst also increasing the body's ability to dissolve fibrin. The combination of these effects confers a cardio-protective role through reducing the risks of circulating fats and artery-clogging factors. Furthermore, chillies can protect fats from free radical damage, which can cause them to harden in the arteries.


The brightly coloured red chilli offers a clue that it is a rich source of beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is converted into vitamin A as needed (also called pro-vitamin A), which is one of our most important vitamins in battling infections, through maintaining healthy mucous membranes and linings in our body's defence against invading pathogens.

Combats Colds

The peppery heat stimulates secretions, helping to clear blocked noses and sinuses that accompany seasonal colds. You may have noticed that your nose and eyes water when eating a hot chilli!

Potential with Type 2 Diabetes

Recent studies have shown that the amount of insulin required to lower blood sugar levels post-meal is reduced if the meal contains chilli.

Cooking Suggestions

Chilli is something you can add to pretty much any dish, from breakfasts (scrambled eggs, omelette) through to main meals and even deserts (chilli and chocolate is a great combo). I have chosen a simple soup, a vegetarian chilli and also a 'parcel fish' dish for you to add to your list of winter warmers.

Winter vegetable chilli with beans (serves 4)

You can adapt the amounts of chilli in this dish according to taste! Why not make up this full batch and take the rest to work, heat in the microwave and use to fill a jacket potato? Other beans such as pinto, chickpeas, borlotti etc can be used instead of kidney beans if preferred.


  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 400g can chopped tomatoes
  • 200 ml hot vegetable stock
  • 410g can red kidney beans
  • 50g green beans, trimmed and halved
  • 1 red chilli, deseeded and chopped
  • 1 courgette, cut into chunks
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 2 red peppers, deseeded and cut into chunks
  • 1 tbsp mild chilli powder
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into chunks


  1. Heat the oil in a large pan. Add the onion and cook on a medium heat for 5 minutes until softened, then add the peppers and cook for 2 minutes. Add the chilli and chilli powder and stir for 1 minute. Stir in the carrot and sweet potatoes, then add the tomatoes and stock and simmer for 15-20 minutes.
  2. Add the courgette and kidney beans and simmer for a further 5 minutes. Finally, add the green beans and simmer for 5-10 minutes, or until all the vegetables are tender, but with a little bite. Serve the chilli with brown rice or a jacket. 

Thai-Style Fish Parcels (serves 2)

Parcel-fish is one of my favourite quick and simple dishes to make. The contents of the parcel can be varied according to what's in the fridge, but a little ginger, chilli and garlic and a few splashes of soya sauce is always a winning combination. This dish is so easy to make and yet looks quite attractive if you've got people coming round to supper.


  • 2 spring onions
  • 1 small carrot
  • 1-2 pak choi
  • 2 pieces of cod loin or fillet (other white fish or salmon always work really well)
  • Tsp sesame oil for brushing
  • 2 tsp dark soy sauce
  • 1 fresh red chilli, deseeded and thinly sliced (or one each if you like it hot!)
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped finely
  • 1 tbsp freshly grated root ginger (again, according to taste, I like lots of ginger in this!)
  • Tsp rice wine (adds depth to the flavours)


  1. Preheat the oven to 230°C (210 fan). Finely slice the spring onions lengthways and the carrots into matchsticks. Chop the pak choi into large chunks.
  2. Cut/tear foil into 30cm squares then brush a little sesame oil onto the base (shiny side down). Lay a base of pak choi then sprinkle the carrots over.
  3. Pat fish dry with kitchen paper then place on top. Brush with a little more sesame oil and scatter over spring onions and sliced chilli.
  4. Mix together the remaining ingredients then pour over each fish piece and seal the parcels.
  5. Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes then rest out of over for 5 minutes before serving.
  6. Serve with steamed vegetables, jasmine rice, brown rice or noodles.

Nutritional information: 235 kcals per serving.

Red lentil, chickpea & chilli soup (serves 4)

This soup is easy to make and can be stored and eaten on different days of the week. Why not make up a batch on a Sunday evening and eat for lunches or smaller portions for snacks when you need a re-warm. Lentils are a filling and low fat protein source for both vegetarians and meat eaters.


  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • large pinch chilli flakes
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 red onion , chopped
  • 140g red split lentils
  • 850ml vegetable stock or water
  • 400g can tomatoes , whole or chopped
  • 200g carton chickpeas or ½ a can, rinsed and drained (freeze leftovers)
  • small bunch coriander , roughly chopped (save a few leaves, to serve)
  • 4 tbsp 0% Greek yogurt , to serve (optional)


  1. Heat a large saucepan and dry-fry the cumin seeds and chilli flakes for 1 min, or until they start to jump around the pan and release aromas.
  2. Add the oil and onion, and cook for 5 mins.
  3. Stir in the lentils, stock and tomatoes, then bring to the boil. Simmer for 15 mins until the lentils have softened.
  4. Whizz the soup with a stick blender or in a food processor until it is a rough purée, pour back into the pan and add the chickpeas.
  5. Heat gently, season well and stir in the coriander. Finish with a dollop of yogurt (optional) and coriander leaves.

Nutritional information: 222 kcalories, protein 13g, carbohydrate 33g, fat 5 g, saturated fat 0g, fibre 6g, sugar 6g, salt 0.87 g 

Sarah is our resident personal trainer and nutritionist; find out more about Sarah here.