The Fit Foodie: Coconut rice and Chickpea, Butternut Squash & Spinach Curry

This week I’ve decided to share one of my favourite vegetarian recipes, says Derval O’Rourke.

Although we love meat and fish in my household, it’s always good to have a few meat-free recipes up your sleeve — plus we have all heard the benefits of reducing our red and processed meat intake and adopting a more plant- based diet at least one day a week.

This is an amazingly inexpensive meal and all the ingredients are readily available.

It’s simple to make for a big group of friends and family, plus it freezes well. 

It’s very a practical, not to mention delicious and nourishing recipe to add to your repertoire.

I love the idea of having the coconut rice to serve alongside it, it complements the curry and is so much more exciting than plain old boiled rice. 

It’s a simple way to liven up what can otherwise be quite a bland side dish.


People often assume that because of my past life as a professional athlete, running 5K would be second nature to me.

Considering I competed for 12 seconds I can confirm that 5K is almost like another sport!

I swore that I would never run any distance events after I retired from sprint hurdles.

This was for a variety of reasons. Sprint training is completely different to endurance training and I’ve spent my whole life trying to build myself as a sprinter.

It was really difficult to train as a sprinter and the idea of undoing a lot of that didn’t appeal to me.

Also I felt a bit useless at long distances because I found jogging so much harder than sprinting.

Since I’ve retired from professional sport almost three years have passed. My life has changed dramatically. I live in Cork as opposed to Dublin. I run my own start-up company and I have a toddler.

A major reason for me starting to run a little further and consider a 5k is lifestyle. I simply don’t have the time to go to the track and do a long training session.

I need to stay fit by walking out my front door and starting to jog. I need to get out and get back.

I’m aiming to run the Spar Fit Live 5km in Dublin and Cork this summer. I have just helped launch the series, so it seemed like the perfect time to get stuck in and sign up for a 5k. 

I’ve started training twice a week with a few friends and I must say I’m enjoying it. It’s given me a reason to run consistently and when it comes to fitness consistency is key.

My friends and I have swapped our tea meet-ups for jogging dates. It’s a great time of year to get started. The mornings are brighter, there is a stretch in the evenings and the weather is generally a bit more forgiving. 

It’s also perfect because there is a whole host of running events from fun runs to marathons that take place over the summer.

I love events like the Fit Live series. They are great goals for anyone starting out on their running journey. The aim is simply to take part, do your best and have fun. 

There is no pressure to compete and no need to be intimidated as they are designed for all abilities. There is no need for fancy gear either. 

All you need is a good pair of runners, some clothes you feel comfortable jogging in, and a water bottle.

This event is also being run by the comedian and Today FM presenter Al Porter. I met him at the launch and was asking him about his background in running. It turns out he has absolutely none. 

He is going to get trained each week by fitness coach Karl Henry and he is aiming to run the 10k in July as his first ever athletics event. Karl will be sharing a training plan on the event website.

The first event takes place in Dublin on July 15. 

In the meantime I’ll be chatting about my progress online on the fitlive website and on my social media.


Rather than following a person this week why not check out the fit live website. It might just inspire you to lace up the runners and get moving. 

Coconut rice

Cook time: 15 mins

Reheat time: 1 min 30 secs

Serves: 4


  • 500g basmati rice
  • Half tin coconut milk
  • 1.5L water


In a large saucepan bring the water to the boil. Rain in the rice and give it a stir. 

Bring back to the boil and simmer for 15 mins. 

Strain rice through a colander and rinse under running cold water to stop the cooking. 

Once cooled, put rice into a large container and pour over the coconut milk. 

Place in the fridge to cool fully. When serving, simply reheat in the microwave for 2-4 minutes, stir and serve.

Chickpea, Butternut Squash & Spinach Curry

Prep time: 5 mins

Cook time: 25 mins approx

Serves: 2 (4 with rice)



  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 thumb-sized piece of ginger
  • 2 fresh red chillies
  • 2 tsp tomato paste
  • 1 medium onion (thinly sliced)
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tin coconut milk
  • 1 can of chickpeas (rinsed and drained)
  • 1/2 butternut squash (diced)
  • 1 tbsp medium curry powder
  • 100g baby spinach
  • Natural yoghurt (for drizzling)
  • Handful of chopped fresh mint



Heat oil in saucepan. Blitz chilli garlic, tomato paste and ginger together in processor. 

Add onion to pan and fry on medium heat for 1-2 mins. 

Add curry powder and diced butternut squash and continue to fry stirring constantly for another minute. 

Add contents from processor and turn down heat, simmer for about 2 mins. Tip in the tin of tomatoes and bring to the boil. 

Add coconut milk and simmer gently for about 20 mins stirring occasionally to make sure it doesn’t stick. 

Stir in the spinach and chickpeas.

Serve topped with a drizzle of yoghurt and a handful of fresh mint


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