Seamus Mullen knows his way around the kitchen. The celebrity chef opened his award-winning Spanish restaurant, Tertulia, in 2011, followed by El Colmado in 2013 (both in New York City). He’s even taken his discerning taste buds to TV, appearing regularly as a judge on Chopped and Beat Bobby Flay. But, for Mullen, food isn’t only something to fill you up or please your palate—it can heal your health.
After years of assuming the aches, pains, and chronic fatigue he was experiencing were a result of too many late nights in the kitchen, Mullen was finally diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic inflammatory disorder. But a regimen of prescription medication brought little relief.
As he explains in his new cookbook Real Food Heals, what finally restored his health was focusing not just on the medication he was consuming, but approaching each meal as an opportunity to heal.
Keep reading for 3 of Mullen’s favorite recipes from his new book.
Coconut-roasted Cauliflower Wedges with Cilantro and Lime
“I’m a huge fan of treating vegetables the same way we look at big cuts of meat: roasting them and making them the star of the meal,” says Mullen. And this “meaty” main dish is also wonderfully flexible—he swaps in pickled chiles in place of fresh, and orange or yellow cauliflower in place of white. “I love the combination of the rich coconut oil and the punchy lime; it’s like being transported into the tropics!”
Yields 4-6 servings
1 cauliflower head, leaves discarded, bottom trimmed
1 Tbsp coconut oil, warmed until just liquid
2 Tbsp ground coriander
1/2 red finger chile, sliced
Handful of cilantro sprigs
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut cauliflower in half, then divide each half into four wedges. Place wedges on rimmed baking sheet, in single layer. Spoon coconut oil over cauliflower. Sprinkle with salt and coriander.
2. Roast cauliflower until it’s very browned on top and bottom, about 30 minutes. Divide among four to six serving plates.
3. Top with sliced chile, lime juice and cilantro. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm or hot.
Chicken Soup with Ginger, Leeks, Mushrooms, Okra and Bok Choy
Mullen calls this chicken soup “the perfect immunity booster” thanks to its ample prebiotic vegetables (which feed the “good” bacteria in your gut) and healthy fats. “It’s one of my all-time favorite recipes, thanks to the intensely delicious flavors,” he says. Sold—pass a spoon!
Yields 4-6 servings
2 Tbsp coconut oil
3 chicken legs (about 1.5 pounds)
Sea salt and ground black pepper
1 small winter squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 2-inch chunks (2 cups)
2 small leeks, white and pale green parts only, cut into 3⁄4-inch slices (1 cup)
1 tsp fish sauce
1 tsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
2 bok choy, leaves kept whole, stems cut into 1-inch slices
4 cups chicken stock
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
1 (2-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and very thinly sliced
12 okra pods, trimmed and cut into 1⁄2-inch slices
10 shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, caps quartered
1⁄2 long red chile, seeded, if desired, and thinly sliced
1. Heat a large Dutch oven over high heat. Add the coconut oil and swirl to coat bottom of pan. Generously season chicken with salt and pepper and add it to hot oil, skin-side down. Cook until skin is golden brown, about 8 minutes.
2. Flip chicken legs over and reduce heat to medium-low. Add squash and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 6 minutes. Add leeks and fish sauce, stir well. Add soy sauce and vinegar. Let liquids bubble and reduce a bit.
3. Add bok choy stems and stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and season with salt. Add garlic and ginger, simmer for a minute. Add okra and mushrooms, simmering until okra is just cooked through, about 6 minutes.
4. Season with salt and pepper, then stir in chile. Add bok choy greens and fold in just until wilted, about 1 minute. Divide among four to six serving bowls and top with cilantro. Serve immediately, with the lime wedges alongside.
Mullen didn’t invent this idea, but he did add his own spin. “It’s an old-time country-hydration mix that I first started drinking when growing up in Vermont,” he says. “I like to think of it as Vermonter’s Gatorade.” And the simple drink provides plenty of health benefits: it can replenish electrolytes, improve the balance of healthy bacteria in your GI tract, and (thanks to the maple syrup) is a natural source of manganese, zinc, and potassium.
Yields about 10 cups
1. Put the ginger in a blender with a few tablespoons water. Blitz until very finely chopped, adding more water if needed to get the blender going and scraping the bowl occasionally.
2. Transfer to a small saucepan and add 2 cups water. Bring to a boil, then remove from the heat and stir in the maple syrup and salt until both dissolve. Let steep for 15 to 20 minutes.
3. Transfer to a large pitcher or jar. Stir in the vinegar, lemon zest, lemon juice, magnesium powder (if using), and 8 cups water. Refrigerate until very cold. Stir or shake before serving.
Want to learn more about Mullen’s diet makeover? Read about his “hallelujah moment,” in his own words, here. And also check out the recipe for his favorite green juice.