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… 😦
– 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!).


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!


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.


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!



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!


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 😉

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.

Foodie Penpals pt.1

Foodie Penpals

My latest foodie adventure has begun by signing up to be a foodie penpal via Rock Salt (who got the set up from The Lean Green Bean)…and it’s bloody brilliant! Basically, you’re added to a database of foodies. Each month the coordinator picks someone from the database to send you a parcel of interesting foodie goodies and at the same time you’re chosen to send a parcel to someone else. Then you get in touch (to say thanks or check it all arrived ok) and then blog about what you got. Easy.

A couple of weeks ago my first parcel arrived, it was like an early birthday present, with a card and everything! The lovely Teresa had neatly packed a wonderful mix of goodies and cooking ingredients and tucked into the card was one of her favourite recipes for me to try.

foodie parcel goodies

I made very short work of the nãkd. snack bars, and coconut macaroon, but I did then share the bombay mix with Richard so I’m not a total meanie.

The maize meal (fine polenta) was my favourite ingredient in the parcel because I’ve hardly ever used it but kept meaning to.

I was surprised how easy it is to make soft polenta and I followed this recipe which turned out great. I had planned to put any leftovers into an oven proof dish so they could set, allowing me to slice it and make polenta chips…but there were no leftovers 🙂

roasted tomatoes, olives and polenta

To go with the polenta I just grilled a few tomatoes, then at the end I threw in a few olives and a tablespoon of sundried tomato pesto, then returned to the grill just to warm everything briefly. Serve the tomato and olive mix over the polenta with some fresh basil and black pepper.

roasted tomatoes, olives and polenta

The rest of the maize meal was earmarked for Teresa’s recipe suggestion – Glamorous Raspberry and Polenta Cake by Jane Hornby.


This is a great recipe to make all year round because it makes smashing use of frozen raspberries.

frozen raspberries

raspberry and polenta cake

slice of cake anyone?

raspberry and polenta cake

I can highly recommend the foodie penpal scheme as it’s as much fun packing up a parcel as it is receiving one – do it!


Foodie Penpals UK & Europe: http://thisisrocksalt.com/foodie-penpals/

Foodie Penpals US: http://www.theleangreenbean.com/foodie-penpals/

Pre-Payday Pepper Pesto!


I have this rather odd notion that I am generally quite good with money. A delusion I entertain for the first 3 weeks in a month. Week 4 arrives and I gingerly peek at my bank statement from behind the sofa…it’s as I feared, not great.
After letting out a high pitched squeal I start to steady myself, starting by circling “payday” on my calendar in pink highlighter. This (and a few deep breaths into a paper bag) helps me to conclude that it’s not too far away and if I just stay indoors for a week I’ll be ok.

Don’t worry, it’s not all bad, in fact there are positives to me being grounded by my finances; the kitchen has never looked cleaner, I built a couple of temporary shoe racks, cut my own hair and I may even get around to making some cushions.

Obviously there are implications for cooking when on a drastically reduced budget, I can’t just pop down to Waitrose for a few mangos, a sourdough loaf and box of nasturtium flowers this week. Nope; it’s time to see what’s in the back of that cupboard.

Pesto is a good one. Plenty of variants, very few fresh ingredients and you have a tasty, thrifty meal in minutes.

Red Pepper Pesto

1 Red Pepper
50g of nuts, pine nuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds or a mixture
4 tablespoons of olive oil
35g of parmesan cheese (or any other hard cheese you like)
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon of honey, 1/2 teaspoon of smoked paprika, pinch of chilli flakes (all optional)

1) Cut the pepper in half and remove the seeds and slice into thick strips. Place in an oven proof dish with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and a little black pepper.

2) Cook under a hot grill or in the oven until they start to caramelise.


3) Leave the peppers to cool slightly whilst you grind the nuts and/or seeds (I used walnuts, sunflower seeds and almonds because that’s what I found in the cupboard). They want to be like breadcrumbs not dust or a paste.

4) Put the ground nuts in a bowl and add finely grated Parmesan. Blend the now slightly cooler peppers to a fine dice and stir into the nuts & cheese with the rest of the olive oil.


5) Taste. If it’s lacking in sweetness add a dash of honey. I also threw in a little smoked paprika and chilli flakes. Season.

20120719-141516.jpg6) I folded my pesto through cooked wholewheat spaghetti tossed in a squeeze of lemon juice. To serve I added a bit more grated cheese and a garnish of chopped fresh tarragon and parsley but basil, oregano or chives would be great too.

As a side dish I made some of my flat bread dough and used it as a sort of pizza topped with garlic, sliced onion, rosemary, olive oil and parmesan.

What are your favourite thrifty recipes? Is there anything lurking at the back of your kitchen cupboard you don’t know what to do with?