Low Carb Diet

Cooking, Recipes

In response to my last blog post (where I offered to come up with dishes to help those on specific diets) I received the following email from a reader: (love the title she’s given me!)

Dear foodie agony aunt, 

I’m attempting a low carb diet and a few days in I’m already running out of meal ideas and I’m starting to lose steam… 😦
Criteria:
– I can have meat of any kind, but the leaner the better.
– Eggs
– Dairy (ideally low fat)
– Vegetables
– On the occasions when I eat carbs they should be low GI and very small portions
– Minimal use of oils/fats

Once a week I’ll be having no carbs during the day at all, so those days will be the hardest to vary. What I want to avoid is meals like spag bol but without the spag (where the carb is so clearly missing it’s depressing!).

Help!


Ahoy there Reader!

Thank you so much for writing in 🙂 Firstly, however I should say that cutting out a food group entirely is not always the best idea, so I’m glad you are permitted to have some carbohydrates in your diet. But more importantly, everyone is different and if you know this plan works for you I admire your determination to stick to it.

Right, now first let’s address the spag situation. Grab yourself a good vegetable peeler – mine is one of those ‘Y’ shaped speed peelers and it was from Morrison’s and cost 80p! It’s one of the best peelers I’ve ever had (and no this post is not sponsored by a supermarket).

1. Using a vegetable peeler create long ribbons – here I’ve used courgettes but carrots work really well too, or a mixture of both is even better!

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2. Drop the vegetable ribbons into a pan of boiling water and cook for no more than about 3 minutes.

3. Drain and serve your vegetable mock-spaghetti with your bolognese sauce.

Alternatively make your own pesto.

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This is a great way to use up store cupboard bits and you can vary it how you like or to suit your dietary plan.
Here I used a mixture of almonds and cashews, blended with rocket leaves and a little olive oil. I would normally have added garlic but I had to go out that afternoon so I flung a few capers in instead. Olives work well too and a little grated hard cheese…

Basically you need:

– a leaf (basil, spinach, rocket, mint or watercress)
– a nut (pinenuts, brazils, cashews, almonds or walnuts)
– a dash of olive oil
– salt & pepper to taste

Optional extras:
– grated hard cheese like Parmesan, Gruyere, Comté
– crushed garlic
– olives, capers and anchovies
– lemon juice

Blend all of your chosen ingredients together in a blender or smash them up in a pestle and mortor. Taste and adjust the ratio or seasoning as you like, have fun experimenting!

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My second suggestion is an alternative to rice. It’s so simple it’s barely a recipe, but it’s super delicious!
All you do is coarsely grate some peeled butternut squash. Then pop it in a non-stick frying pan without adding any oil. Dry toast the grated butternut squash turning it frequently with a spatula so that it can all cook evenly. After about 5 minutes it should be tender but with slightly scorched edges, serve immediately with your main dish. I think this would be delicious with grilled fish and a green salad or with a good spoonful of chilli con carne!

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Healthy eating and getting fit can be really difficult. I hope these recipes are helpful and what’s great is they actually take less time to cook than traditional rice or pasta!
I’ve started trying to get fit by doing some yoga and jogging. I’m not fit enough yet to brave the jogging route down regents canal – at busy times it can get quite hairy with Cyclists, Dog Walkers, Joggers and Canada Geese all getting tangled up under a footbridge.
Instead of joining them I’ve cleared a small area of floor space in my bedroom and use an app which shouts out various exercise or yoga instructions! So currently, my idea of a work out is to jog basically on the spot whilst a disembodied voice shouts “almost there” and “you know what to do!”. I normally find this really boring but I discovered that the jogging routine is approx 30 minutes long so there’s no reason why I can’t watch TV or a film to keep me entertained. So last night I jogged to an episode of Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle on iplayer! Yay for cardio workout + satire! I felt much better about eating some more broccoli and pepperoni pizza… and a glass of my housemate’s red wine 😉
x

If you’re stuck for recipe ideas too, please do send me a message via the contact form or head over to my Facebook page.

Gnocchi o’clock!

Cooking, Recipes

About a month ago a friend of mine posted this entry on facebook: “1st attempt at gnocchi making and it’s gone very badly wrong”. Underneath this statement was a photograph of a saucepan filled with the offending yellow paste and a wooden spoon which looked like it might never return. I invited her round for a gnocchi masterclass.

I say ‘masterclass’… I have made gnocchi before but that was ages ago and I cannot remember how it turned out. I think it went ok but I honestly have no memory of it either way. She seemed so disheartened that it hadn’t gone well that without thinking I invited her round to make gnocchi with me. I had been joking when I called it a masterclass, but I realise now that I haven’t actually known her for that long so she may have just assumed that I knew what I was talking about. (It’s probably better that I am concerned about this now and not on the day).

She arrived keen to get started and once the kitchen was free from coffee making housemates we got to work. I might not be a gnocchi expert but I know what it feels like when things go wrong in the kitchen. Usually this happens to me when I am being impatient or if I get distracted. It feels so much worse when it’s the mistakes you wouldn’t normally make; over-cooked veg, an undercooked casserole, burnt cake, in my case all of which are almost always followed by my flouncing off into another room dramatically exclaiming “I can’t cook” and “my career is a failure”. I hoped that if I helped my friend resolve her gnocchi nightmare I would simultaneously be sending a metaphysical drop kick to every failed flan, terrible terrine or that lumpy mashed potato I was sorry to serve to my boyfriend’s mother last year.

It was a really fun afternoon and I am pleased to say that we made some rather yummy gnocchi. It was a lot easier than either of us had expected/half remembered. We ate it in the garden until I noticed a hungry squirrel take a strong interest in the hazelnut butter so we ran in.

I really enjoy cooking with other people; sharing the labour of something which might normally be fiddly or complicated and swapping kitchen hints and tips.

If you want to make gnocchi too, here’s what we did:

  1. Take 750g of potatoes and boil them whole and unpeeled for 30 minutes
  2. Drain them, rinse with cold water and leave them to cool.
  3. Peel the potatoes and put them through a potato ricer.
  4. Gradually add 125g of plain flour stirring with a wooden spoon.
  5. Knead the mixture briefly and bring together into 3 lumps. Roll them into thin sausages and chop into small pieces (you’re aiming for boiled sweet size blobs)
  6. Press a fork into the sides to give small line indentations and drop a third of the gnocchi pieces into boiling water
  7. Once they rise to the top, give them about 10 seconds or so and then scoop them out with a slotted spoon and place in a serving dish.
  8. Repeat the process with the rest of the batches.

Add pesto or your favorite cheese or toasted hazelnuts tossed in melted butter. As you may know I’m trying to change some of my eating habits at the moment so I made mine with butternut squash in place of potato and used wholemeal flour. The mixture needed more flour than the potato version and I stuck an egg in too (for luck!) The butternut squash version is great with the hazelnut butter, mint leaves and feta and I served the classic version with a simple salsa verde made with mint, parsley, basil, capers, lemon juice and oil.