The Fit Foodie: Bacon & Cabbage Mussels and Nutty Apple, Rhubarb & Ginger Crumble

I’m really excited for everyone to try this week’s recipes. They are slight twists on old classics, says Derval O’Rourke.


When it comes to fitness and wellbeing, for me, sleep is sacred. It was a huge part of my routine as a professional athlete. Sleep = recovery. 

It’s an essential part of living well and impacts on everything else we do.

This weekend, I slept for 11 hours straight so to say I felt like a new woman would be an understatement. I felt amazing. 

I mentioned this on my social media accounts and the response I got was incredible and made me realise how important a topic it is for many people.

Today, exhaustion has become somewhat of a status symbol. We work late and wake early to cram the most into every day and sometimes forget that our bodies need rest. 

Rest is one of the most important aspects of your fitness routine. It’s just as important as eating well and exercise.

While some look forward to going to bed and can rest safe in the knowledge that they will drift straight off, for others bedtime can be stressful and the moment their head hits the pillow thoughts of unsent emails, to-do lists and questions about the meaning of life itself rear their ugly heads.

People talk to me all the time about their issues with sleeping. It seems to be a common problem in Ireland with more women mentioning it to me than men.

Sleep issues can be caused by biological factors like ageing, being female and genetics. 

From my experience as an elite athlete I found that many lifestyle decisions can help my sleep quality.

Here are a few of the ones I find best.

Digital Detox

I aim to have my phone on silent and my laptop turned off by 9pm. Trust me, there is nothing on your phone late at night that is more important than getting your sleep. 

Investing in an alarm clock might also help as it means you can make your room a phone-free zone and will stop you checking your phone if you do wake in the night.


The old saying “different strokes for different folks” certainly holds true when it comes to remedies out there that claim to aid sleep. Personally, I find magnesium great and tend to take a supplement. 

Dark leafy greens, pumpkin seeds and cacao powder are all good sources of magnesium. Magnesium is wonderful for helping to relax the muscles and calm the mind. 

An epsom salt footbath is especially good because magnesium is absorbed best through the skin and lavender is well known for its relaxing properties. 

A lavender pillow spray works a treat too.


For many people, getting a good night’s sleep becomes a source of stress and anxiety. We worry that if we don’t get our hours of shuteye, we are not going to be able to cope with the demands of the day.

A busy work/life schedule means our minds are constantly switched on. Try keeping a notebook and pen next to your bed and spend 10-15 minutes writing it out before you go to sleep. 

Other ideas to try might be some meditation. Headspace is a great app.

Limit caffeine

Limit caffeine-containing drinks late in the afternoon and after dinner. I adore coffee so I have to be extra vigilant. Caffeine stimulates adrenal glands which can leave you wired and unable to sleep. 

Try switching to herbal teas as the day winds down. Also, limit fluids in the hour before bed to prevent you making a thousand toilet breaks during the night.

Bedtime snacking

While we are generally advised to avoid big meals before bedtime (especially spicy or acidic meals), for me, a bedtime snack is a must. 

Scientifically, we should aim for a tryptophan rich snack; tryptophan is needed to make our sleep hormone, melatonin (and our happy hormone serotonin).

An example would be oat cakes, almond butter and banana. Yum!


My fitspo this week isn’t strictly fitness related but I’ve decided to give a shout out to the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute website this week. Its website, in particular the factsheets section, has easy to understand information on a host of topics. 

Bacon & Cabbage Mussels

The Fit Foodie: Bacon & Cabbage Mussels and Nutty Apple, Rhubarb & Ginger Crumble

Mussels are an underrated and under-used ingredient in my eyes. A study by Bord Bia found that while we all agree they taste great, fewer people were as confident when it came to cooking them at home.

Mussels, and fish in general, are highly nutritious and in my eyes are real superfoods. They are a great source of, and have easy-to- digest protein and omega 3 fatty acids. 

Mussels contain high levels of vital minerals like iron, zinc, and copper and vitamins and E.

Try this dish for something a little different this weekend.

Prep time: 10 mins

Cook time: 10-12 mins

Serves: 3/4

  • 1kg of fresh mussels (washed and debearded)
  • 100g unsmoked bacon lardons
  • 100g green savoy cabbage (finely shredded)
  • 100ml white wine
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Handful of chopped fresh parsley
  • Sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste


Place lardons in a large cold wok and begin to fry on a low heat until they start to crisp up.

Add cabbage, lemon juice and wine and simmer until cabbage begins to soften slightly.

Season with salt and pepper and add a little water if needed.

Add mussels, turn up heat and cover with a lid.

Allow to steam for 3-5 minutes until all mussel shells are open.

Serve topped with the chopped parsley. I love mussels with brown bread or a big salad and baked potato.

Nutty Apple, Rhubarb and Ginger Crumble

The Fit Foodie: Bacon & Cabbage Mussels and Nutty Apple, Rhubarb & Ginger Crumble

I love a good crumble. It’s such a wonderfully easy dessert but such a crowd pleaser too. 

The ingredients for this one are really simple but when combined and baked with the ginger, they yield something truly delicious.

It’s so easy to make and as the crumble bakes it will make your kitchen smell totally divine too so you just can’t go wrong with this one.

Prep time: 20 mins

Cook time: 30 mins

Serves: 6-8

  • 4 large cooking apples (peeled and chopped)
  • 6 stalks of rhubarb leaves removed and roughly chopped)
  • 500ml water
  • 200g porridge oats
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 175g butter
  • 3 tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 4 tbsp honey or agave or maple syrup
  • 100g desiccated coconut


Preheat oven to 180

Put the water and rhubarb in a pot and boil for about 10 mins.

Drain off water and add apples and simmer on a low heat until they just start to soften. Remove and strain off excess liquid.

Add honey and cinnamon and pour the mix into a shallow oven proof dish.

Mix the remaining dry ingredients in a bowl with the coconut oil until you get a breadcrumb consistency.

Sprinkle on top of fruit mix and bake for 20-30 mins until topping is golden brown.

Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly before serving.


Fiann Ó Nualláin follows in the footsteps of the Fianna as he explores a province’s hills and vales.Munster marvels: Plants that are unique to a province

Cupid must be something of a motoring enthusiast, as he had most definitely steered his way in the neighbourhood when Amie Gould and Shane O’Neill met at the Rally of the Lakes 12 years ago.Wedding of the Week: Cupid steers couple to right track

When it comes to podcasting, all it takes is one idea — and who knows where it can take you.Podcast Corner: Crimes and creatures rule at Cork’s first podcast fest

Claymation meets science fiction in this enchanting film, writes Esther McCarthy.Latest Shaun adventure is out of this world

More From The Irish Examiner