Hallouminize! Low Carb Cheese Love

21 Jul

What started as a chaste taste in a local Greek restaurant quickly became an obsession.  Worryingly, after a while I became the single white female… of Halloumi cheese!  After the first time I tried this cheese, I loved and purchased it so much that after a point there was just always some in my fridge and I worried when I came close to running out.  And like many of the worlds relationships, familiarity bred contempt and we simply lost touch.

But on reflection of the good times and what I might be missing, am back in love again.  Halloumi, a traditional Cypriot cheese, is a really great cheese, especially for low carb – especially handy if you are including a ‘guest cheese’ in your weekly fridge line up – try it! This from its Wikipedia entry:

Halloumi cheese originated in Cyprusand was initially made during the Medieval Byzantine period, subsequently gaining popularity throughout the rest of the Middle East region. Industrial halloumi contains more cow’s milk than goat and sheep milk. This reduces the cost but changes the taste and the grilling properties.  The cheese is white, with a distinctive layered texture, similar to mozzarella, and has a salty flavour. It is stored in its natural juices with salt-water, and can keep for up to a year if frozen below −18 °C (0 °F) and defrosted to +4 °C (39 °F) for sale at supermarkets. It is often garnished with mint to add to the taste. Traditionally, the mint leaves were used as a preservative, the use serendipitously discovered when the fresh Halloumi was kept wrapped for freshness and flavour from the mint leaves. Hence, if you look closely, many packaged Halloumi will have bits of mint leaf on the surface of the cheese.

As  I have said before, I do love savoury foods and am not averse to the pretty salty flavour of this cheese from the sat water in which it is stored.  But its an amazingly versatile cheese choice in my opinion because: 1) It doesn’t melt when cooking like most cheeses, 2) you don’t get the cheese overload you might anticipate if you’re not normally a lover of cheese on its own as a snack and 3) eating it in its ‘raw’ and ‘cooked’ state provide very different eating experiences – and as a result provide an element of variety often much missed in low carb eating.  Some doubters will tell you that a major downside is the way it feels ‘squeaky’ on your teeth (don’t panic! you need to taste it just to see what that means!) – but take it from me, the girl whose friends laugh at her because of her aversion to the squeak sound of cotton wool rubbing together (urrgghh) – this is not a problem.

You will buy a pack, such as this (mine purchased at my local supermarket, but know it’s widely available (NOTE you can usually buy both ‘normal’ and ‘light versions’.  A search on mysupermarket revealed that in a comparison between the two versions I find at my local Sainsburys, the light version (1g per 100g) beats the normal version (2.4g per 100g) for carbs. But as have said before, I don’t believe in obsessively counting and with a negligible difference, you might as well choose the normal version!

So here are two ways of incorporating this into your low carb lifestyle, both are hardly recipes because they require so little prep.  Let me know if you become as much of a fan as I am! A great low carb addition to your fridge…

1) The ‘raw’ way:

  • Open pack (seems a bit banal to state this as is clearly obvious, but Halloumi is usually vacuum packed with salted water  to keep the cheese fresh. Top tip, is to open pack while in a bowl or even better a tupperware tub, because otherwise you may well have a leaking packet emergency).  In my experience, if you are not planning to eat the pack in one go (though tempting, a tad too much in one sitting if it’s just you!) the liquid is beneficial when storing in fridge, so slicing in tupperware box enables everything to be kept in best way for next use.
  • Slice into small cubes, to be served as canapes alongside other low carb snacks, or as a quick low carb snack fix when hunger strikes!

2) Cooked version:

Cooking this cheese provides a totally different taste.  While it doesn’t melt, the cheese is softer and the salty taste is much reduced.  I have fried off some slices in a small amount of butter here especially due to the visual cooked presentation but it can also be grilled more healthily and suspect its only the capabilities of my oven which don’t enable the same effects when I do this – let me know what you find!

Tomatoes and Halloumi totally compliment eachother and provide a fast snack or indeed a satisfying meal perhaps when accompanied by a salad or some low carb bread? But as ever there are a plethora of ways to enjoy this alongside other low carb dishes.

  • Open pack (with advice as above)
  • Slice cheese in approx 1cm slices (NOTE best not too small a width, as you want to keep them firm enough for cooking).
  • Heat amount of butter in pan and distribute so all pan covered, keep heat fairly high.
  • Add slices and cook for approx 30 seconds on each side. Keep turning until a ‘browned’ effect is visible.
  • Add cherry/plum tomatoes sliced in half and cook with cheese for a further minute (keep turning so as not to get the cheese burnt) or until browned nicely on both sides.

Enjoy!

Low Carb Takeaway – done!

2 Feb

One of the really good things about eating this way as a ‘diet’ is that you still get to eat some of the foods considered ‘bad’.  Takeaways definitely fall into that category – I’m not a massive advocate of them on a regular basis, but when time is pressed, or you are at the mercy of a group of hungry people demanding them – it’s good to be able to participate.  As a result, Indian and Chinese food (for example) is not really a problem on a low carb diet – you just omit the rice (and sauces with sugar).  Except… I love rice!  Or I should say I loved it…sniff.  I kind of feel cheated or ripped off if takeaway is ordered in and I can’t have any – honestly one of the few times where I feel cheated by this diet, which seems mad considering by how much you can participate.

So my brother came to stay last weekend and – slightly crazy, because I should have been either cooking myself or taking him out to see the bright lights of London Town, but because hey he was knackered, we’ve had loads to catch up on and he is here for a while – we ordered takeaway at home.  Luckily for me (or perhaps him not to have to put up with my moaning) I had previously created a load of cauliflower rice for just this occasion.  You can see my recipe here – but for the variety to complement your takeaway, I would suggest just cooking with onions, and then when ready, stirring with a beaten egg for a few minutes in the pan, to create an egg fried variety.

Everyone else eating opted for the normal rice – but they are not low carb dieters! In my opinion, this doesn’t even look low carb – and actually tastes like you’re just having a full takeaway – brilliant!

Is a tasty low carb bread possible?

27 Jan

When I first started this way of eating I remember sourcing a low carb ‘bread’ recipe from the internet. “You SEE” I remember shouting to my boyfriend as I raced to the kitchen, “you don’t have to give ANYTHING up for this diet! There are SUBSTITUTES!!!!”.  The recipe called for all kinds of things, ground almonds, about a million eggs and even garlic – and me? I was in a dream land of freshly baked loaves and serving sandwiches lovingly made by my own fair hands to my friends – “Oh this? Yes! Its Low Carb! I know, you can’t even tell!”…  Well as I’m sure you’ve guessed the results of that particular experiment were not a success and  learnt a hard lesson about falling for the hype and about being realistic about the limitations (and opportunities) of this way of eating.  While still woefully remembering this experience, this recipe for Flax Bread from About caught my eye.  Could there actually be a tasty low carb bread?  I didn’t think so until making some this weekend following a desire to use some of my ingredients from my visit to the health food shop.

I did fall somewhat at the first hurdle (tip – if you are looking for the milled version of flaxseed, possibly best to ask for it – or not buy one in a box as I did, to later get it home and find it is whole!). Anyway, a (good) few blitzes in the food processor sorted this out and I was ready to go.  As I said, I used the About recipe, which I amended slightly as below, but you may find it easier to watch their – very good – video, either on the VodPod section on the bottom left of this blog where I’ve included it, or here.

Please note the below has been amended and commented on by me, I also took the American cup measurements from the About recipe and approximated them – so no hard numbers here! If you need these, check out the video, or have a go without measuring – it is surprisingly liberating! And frankly this recipe is so quick and easy to do that even if the first attempt goes wrong it’s no problem…

FLAX SEED BREAD

  • Flax seed (milled if you’re sensible, but have since heard it doesn’t keep as well) – I used about a third of the box you can see in this picture.
  • Salt – couple of pinches of
  • 4 Eggs (beaten) – recipe called for five, I used four just because that’s all I had and it worked fine.
  • Olive Oil – I used three tablespoons, but you could adjust to taste I’m sure
  • Baking Powder – I used a couple of tablespoons, but admittedly it didn’t rise dramatically, perhaps it could use more? Experiment!
  • Tablespoon water
  • (Recipe also called for sweetener, but I hate the idea of it in bread – but your call to include as per your taste!)

Method:

Pour flax-seed into food processor and blitz until fine, mix in the rest of the dry ingredients (salt, baking powder)

Blitz with mixer.

Add in oil and beaten egg mixture.

Blitz with mixer.

Add in water (use in incremental tiny amounts, you don’t want this getting too gloopy) and by adding these after I find you stay in control.

By the end, your mixture should be looking like this:

Take out mixture and add onto a lined or greased pan. Now the About recipe says to flatten it out on a baking sheet, which I did – but was surprised it did not rise more.  If I tried again, I would either make a bit bigger or shape into rolls I think (they would be fairly heavy though, so don’t make them too big). Your mixture should be doughy and such that you can take it and shape it without being too sticky.

Pop into the oven at approx 200c for about 20 mins.   This is mine when it came out (my oven was uncooperative and did not seem to like cooking on top, but you get the idea – yours would hopefully be browned on top!):

Voila – enjoy!

Why did I not know about this sooner!!  OK so let’s be clear and manage expectations, this is not going to taste like a farmhouse loaf, so no reason to pretend otherwise, but I would liken it to Soda Bread – which I am particularly fond of anyway.  After munching through in amazement, one slice really fills you up and gets rid of any bread cravings!  I thought it was especially good toasted with Marmite or on its own with cream cheese and can’t wait to try it with soup – what are your experiences with flax bread?

Use your loaf and make this yummy low carb bread if the cravings hit!

Low carb trip to the health food shop…

24 Jan

For a treat (how much of a geek am I) I went to the health food shop this weekend.  It actually does feel like a treat though, because Earth Natural Foods in Kentish Town is like a palace to foods you read about in low carb recipes, but are impossible to find in everyday supermarkets – the only challenge is getting some great recipes to use them all up (and prove my investment worthwhile!).  All the staff and customers in there are all serene and zen and even going in there has a harmonising effect.  People in Kentish Town proudly bear their woven recyclable bags around the area with pride, like a badge of health and clean living.  Despite the fact I would actually quite love to buy and own one, I never get round to it, because in doing so you have to admit to the lovely and earnest till staff (and worse the queue) that you HAVEN’T BROUGHT YOUR OWN RECYCLABLE BAGS. I asked for a carrier bag the first time I went in there and never have since – draw your own conclusions!

Anyway, despite only going in for some herbal tea, I came out with these (and actually forgot the tea in my haste):

Low carb health food shop haul...

The sweetener I am investigating because I have come to the conclusion I can no longer do Splenda! I’m not normally a sweet toothed person, but have experimented with it in baking and have come to  dread the aftertaste.  So in the absence of being able to buy Stevia, this is the one I have selected from what was available.  The Soya Flour and Flaxseed I have been hearing about since I started on this diet and I want to see what all the fuss is about – right, am off to find some recipes to use them!  Any ideas most welcome….

Top 10 low carb cooking tools and gadgets

19 Jan

We all know (or at least I do), that low carb eating can be a faff.  Being prepared is almost a mantra for this way of eating –  and when you have done a lot of cooking or preparation starting the week then you do feel very smug and ability to stay on track is much better – but sometimes? Life gets in the way!

I am – by my own admission – a gadget fiend for all types, especially electronic, always on the look out for the next thing that’s going to make my life easier, do something faster or generally just look cool.  And cooking is no different, especially when it comes to low carb cooking – anything that makes it easier/faster/better is great because it helps you stay on the low carb path.  So here are products at the front of my mind or cupboard – what are yours?

1) Courgette Splicer – I have mentioned this in previous posts, but it is brilliant – you must must must buy one if you haven’t because it creates a great way to eat courgettes, creates substitutes for pasta or noodles, and even impresses dinner guests who have only ever seen courgette cooked a couple of ways.   Definitely a winner.

2)  Flask – Yes, it does make you feel like you are back in a past family picnic – however, it is a brilliant tool for the low carb office lunch.  As past posts show I am rather partial to soup from the local sandwich eaterie (completely admit convenience and laziness make this an ever appealing option).  BUT, if you can make your own soups (totally easy, will post more soon on this) and can spare a mere two mins in the morning to heat up… with the addition of a flask (which doesn’t have to be the best or most expensive version!), you can have hot soup for lunch without the need to queue for the microwave at lunch and be the envy of the office.

3) Food Grill – As a result of some vouchers my very clever other half won as a result of doing well at work, we recently purchased a ‘health grill’ – (and after much debate, one with cleanable trays, which has proved valuable!).  Think I’m coming very late to the party with this, but I’m loving it.  Not so much for the fat reducing aspect as on low carb that’s not so much a problem, but because it provides a really quick and easy way to cook the low carb staple of meat well – especially sausages which I always seem to have a problem with!

4)  Food Processor – OK, I love love love my food processor.  Ours is possibly one of the cheapest on the market, but I use it constantly (and its been going for a long while!).  Especially good for our old friend the cauliflower. Cauliflower mash? Never going to taste as good as when its been blended by the food processor.  Cauliflower pizza? Complete nightmare to grate cauliflower by hand, but with the grating attachment, you can get everything sorted easily – and even better quickly – important when you are replicating fast food!

5)  Steamer Bags – Not really a tool or gadget as such, but these are so brilliant and the biggest bargain ever. I brought ten at Poundland for (as the name suggests!) a pound, in a slightly scary pre Christmas experience in Poundland Camden Town.  Just pop them in the microwave with some chopped veg for a couple of mins and you’re ready to go.  I have even since found that you can wash them out after use! All the benefits of low cost and convenience, with the added benefit of no cauliflower smell in your living space – buy them. If only for the last reason (and to reduce moaning of your OH). Those versions are clearly a bargain, but think you can also get upper class zipped versions at outlets such as Lakeland should you prefer to spend more!

6) Silicon Cake Tray – I was anti this at first.  I mean, what does a rubberised cake tray have to offer in a world of lovely looking kitchen equipment? How wrong I was.  Whatever you are making, after cooking, you can simply tip the recipe out of the tray – and crucially without the need for greasing them and adding more time to your recipe – ready to cool and eat. There are lots of good cake recipes for the typical sweet need for this equipment, but it also great for low carb breakfast muffins, using it for portions of low carb Quiche… the list goes on!  Have added some versions of these on my online shop – but you can get some great value (but not as sturdy!) versions, again from Poundland.  I use one of each type!

7) Hand Blender – As have said previously soups are a great asset for low carb eating. Again, we have the cheapest version, and it works just fine! Am aware that you can definitely use your food processor/blender to help with this very easily.  However, the hand bender is a brilliant asset for helping with the final stages of soup.  Just plug it in, blend, then a quick wash of the blade means there’s not even much washing up to contend with. It is not always the easiest to transfer soup to different receptacles for blending, so bringing the blender to the soup is a brilliant time – and stress! – saver.)

8 ) Shake mixer – I have no time in the mornings – or maybe what is more true is that I prioritise sleeping in my morning routine and with the time spent getting ready for your day ahead, you are left with precious little time for prepping a low carb day! Before this diet I thought protein shakes were the domain of muscley weight lifters, but I digress and feel the need to tell you more soon, but if you are in the market for taking a protein shake to work in lieu of your otherwise regular coffee, its brilliant. With the mixer ball inside to shake the drink all the way to work in your bag, simply add a scoop of protein shake, some ice cubes and some soy milk and breakfast is served – at your desk!

9)  Netbook – OK, stay with me on this one! The internet (as hopefully this blog proves) can provide a lucrative, much needed, source for low carb recipes. In fact, recent research shows that consumers in the UK are now turning more towards the internet as a source of recipe inspiration than cookery books. Yes, of course you can print these out, or commit them to memory, but I love taking my little (or littler than a laptop) netbook into the kitchen to sit away from the prep as a reassurance am following the recipes to plan.  With Nigella et al now providing videocasts of recipes and ipads, smart phones and ever more amazing technology more accessible, I think this type of cooking is only going to become more popular.

10) Cheese Grater – Yes.  Cheese is a massive staple of the low carb lifestyle and many low carb recipes demand a lot of it.  I have got – more than one! – ‘normal’ cheese graters to do the deed, but they can be troublesome… and messy.  Which is why having one which contains all the cheese in a box attached is great.. especially when you plan to use a certain amount – less is more!

Low Carb London – EAT

12 Jan

Cauliflower Cheese Soup from eat - low carb loveliness in your lunchbreak

As much as I aspire to be the girl who always brings in her carefully made lunch to work – and I have made more effort since new year as my last post shows – sometimes, like today, it is just too rainy/cold/boring to undertake it.  Today I had to buy in lunch, but I suspect this was subconsciously because I knew Cauliflower Cheese Soup was on the menu at Eat.

As we know on this way of eating – the cauliflower is your friend!  And this is brilliant, I like cauliflower, I love cauliflower cheese and I am a massive fan of Eat’s idea to provide it in soup form!  Described as ‘the ultimate comfort food’ by Eat’s menu, this delicious soup ticks all the boxes for taste and being filling and, of course, for being low carb (approx 5 carbs per 100g I think, but as the name suggests I don’t really do the whole counting thing).  My purchase instigated a bit of soup related chat in the office and it appears I’m in the minority by favouring cheese in a soup – however, if you are doing low carb and therefore eliminating the bread – it’s a massive bonus to have the extra fillingness provided by the cheese.  This is backed up by the fact that I ate at approx 12.30pm and it is now 19:10 and I still don’t feel hungry – result!

Being essentially a sandwich shop, Eat is not amazing for low carb eating, but there are some good options (especially with the soups).  Check out the latest menu and other nutritional information here.  If you have any low carb lunch break recommendations I would love to hear them!

New dawn, new day, new low carb year! Crustless Quiche for a low carb lunchbox

9 Jan

Happy new year everyone! And as a new year begins, I start with an apology for being away for so long.  My absence results not from any desire not to be in touch, but conversely because of my love of being in touch from a digital space… Since my last entry I have been submerged in a digital marketing diploma course to learn and understand all about communicating digitally – what I didn’t anticipate was that it would take me so far out of all the things I would be doing normally!  It has been brilliant and a massive learning curve, but for a novice (as opposed to all the true experts on my course who do this in their day-to-day careers!) a real slog to get myself up to speed alongside my working life, meaning my hours in front of the computer have been dedicated to learning, researching and coursework rather than communicating.  So for being quiet for a bit I apologise, but what I can confirm is that feeling on top of things now, I am so ready and can’t wait to get back in touch and continue the low carb experience with you!

Anyway – a new year begins!  And with it comes a new resolve for low carb living and sharing the experience.  What is different – and great! – for me at this time of year is that there are many more people I meet who are open to talking about the low carb experience and way of eating.  In my office environment nearly everyone is on a diet or detox right now and eager to hear about other ways of eating, so there is a lot of room to explain why low carb works well!

And like many others I’m sure, I have started the new year with an eagerness to save money (do I *really* need that pret salad for lunch every day?! – well maybe not in January…), so lots of packed lunches.  I have been no different and have been diligent in packing my salad in a Tupperware box every day.  Except for me, salad just doesn’t quite cut it.  No matter how many lovely additions I pack into the salad, I still feel a bit like I’m being robbed of a ‘proper’ lunch.  So enter the Crustless Quiche – I can not emphasise how much of a bonus this addition is to your working lunch – it makes a salad extra special, if you make a big dish to ration throughout the week it is economical and the added protein from the eggs ensures you’re kept full until dinner.  And add an extra Tupperware box of coleslaw to the mix and you might not even want/need a salad dressing – brilliant!

Crustless Quiche – (I’m giving you my measures here, but the beauty is, you can add as much – or little – as you want.. experiment!)

  • 6 Eggs (yes it does seem like a lot, but remember this is going to last you a few lunches!)
  • Slug of double cream / creme fraiche
  • 2 Rashers bacon(chopped)
  • Chopped mushrooms
  • Handful chopped Leeks and leafy veg
  • 1 Onion (chopped finely)
  • 2 blocks of frozen Spinach
  • Handful of your favourite type of grated cheese (I used Cheddar on this occasion, because it was all I had, but does tend to influence the overall flavour – I find Emmental great as more delicate)
  • .. any other leftover ingredients which might work well – they all work well here!

Method:

Add the chopped onion into a pan with a small blog of butter, soften for a couple of minutes

Add the chopped bacon rashers, and stir so they start to cook, keep stirring for around a minute

Add the frozen spinach and leafy veg, stir in then turn heat down low and leave (stirring occasionally) for about 5 mins – if you have a cover for the pan, use this as will allow to steam.

Turn off the heat and add the mix to a largish dish – perspex works well here.

Beat eggs and cream in bowl – I find it makes a big difference if you used a hand mixer to do this. Pour the egg and cream mixture on top of the other ingredients in the dish.

Sprinkle in your grated cheese of choice and move the mixture with a spoon for space as opposed to stirring it to allow everything to get coated.

Leave in oven for 15-20 mins, or until golden and risen on top.

Try to resist eating a spoonful as it come out of the oven – this is very tempting and great if you need some food on the run, but ruins your portion control if you’re planning for lunchbox action later in the week! W

low carb crustless quiche

Low carb crustless quiche - try to save it for the lunchbox!

Low Carb London – Zizzis and St John’s Tavern

15 Aug

We have just waved off some friends who have been staying with us and while it was lovely to have them, we are now sitting in our flat enjoying the relative peace!  I do feel like we often take London living for granted, we get out and about a fair bit, but it’s really when you have friends come to visit who are amazed, impressed and desperate to pack in as much of London as possible in a weekend, that you remember we are really lucky to live here and have such amazing things and places on our doorstep.

Living in London also means that we are lucky enough to have a myriad of amazing restaurant option if we choose to eat out (or in!) and there is something for all tastes and budgets, and that’s something I think we definitely don’t take for granted!  So therefore, Low Carb living when you have these options is a bit easier when you have all this to choose from, but I love hearing about noteworthy LC menu options from friends who have been and experienced good ones.  As an (ex) pizza fiend myself, it was while bemoaning the fact that I missed it and how I felt I had to give up the temptation of Italian restaurants as I didn’t trust myself not to order, that I was recommended the Insalta Boccincini from Ziziis (we went to the branch in Victoria, but they are of course nationwide) by a friend.

So, it was to Zizzis that we headed for a quick meal with friends this weekend and I completely amazed myself that by having this choice of meal that it completely eliminated the desire for the pizzas, even with everyone around me having them!  I shared a starter of anti-pasta with my friend (think lovely fresh buffalo mozzarella, parma ham and sun-dried tomatoes), followed by this salad, which features lovely melty Scamorza cheese wrapped in ham (that’s your pizza substitute sorted) on a bed of crisp salad as below – was lovely.  Even better, they currently have an offer on their website for two courses for £10 in August…bargain!  Don’t have an image unfortunately, but this from their menu below:

INSALATA BOCCINCINI (£5.55 / £9.25)

Smoked ham wrapped in Scamorza cheese adds a twist to a classic Italian salad of roasted peppers, tomatoes, cucumber, red onions, mixed leaves and croutons

Meanwhile, another notable Low Carb option from this weekend I wanted to tell you about was actually found in a pub (St John’s Tavern in Archway  – lots of locally sourced options on their extensive food menu and well worth a visit!).  When one of our group suggested getting pork scratchings as a snack, I was initially half hesitant and half enthusiastic.  While they are often regarded as a low carb staple and I can appreciate their low carb qualities for a snack (unlike many who have a pretty fierce reaction one way or the other!), I find it best to keep thinking from what is in them too much – and especially from considering just how long they may have been sitting on the shelf before you purchased the bag!!

Anyway, what came back from the bar was not as expected a small bag of questionable quality, but a plateful of freshly made pork rinds, which were invariably more appetising!  These pork scratchings were completely different, crunchy, flavoursome and at £3 for a plate pretty good value too.  Clearly being made from scratch (!) on the premises makes all the difference. As you can see from the below we all dived in very quickly, but just in time managed to get a quick photo while there were some left to show you before they were all polished off…

Pork Scratchings - Gastro Pub style!

Carb v Low Carb – a Salmon Supper

10 Aug

I, like many others I’m sure, have got a repertoire of fail-safe dishes which I have honed over the years to become my staple dishes for dinner which would suit my every mood. When I moved in with my OH, we had a period of confusion where these dishes battled for supremacy, but ultimately settled down into a pattern so that we now have a joint set of favourites – but sharing the cooking on alternate days, which has seemed to work!

Was talking with my lovely OH tonight about the low carb way of eating in general and while lots of our favourite dinners pre this WOE were carb heavy (due in no small part my desire to have them that way!) both he and myself have been surprised how my adaptation of low carb and him not wanting (or needing) to have not really impacted our routine – in fact had I not been spurred on to for diet purposes I think I would have enjoyed the way I eat them now just as much. And furthermore, it doesn’t even require an extra length of time to do two versions.

So thought it might be interesting/useful to post some dinners as they are round our place to demonstrate. Tonight’s is not a particularly innovative version (hard day at the office!), but stay tuned for more for ideas on the same theme..

Firstly, news from the courgette camp is that we have our first big courgette from the tiny north London balcony outside our flat:

Our newest courgette addition to the family - fork to show scale (yes I was pretty excited and yes, no expense spared on LCNNC!)

We’ve actually grown a fair few, but due to either my excitement about harvesting, the OH’s determination to grow them as big as we’d get in the supermarket or local birds spying their dinner (well, think that’s the case – otherwise we have some pretty big insects demanding food on the balcony there), this is the first that’s made it though. Despite the excitement, it was always going to get eaten for dinner!

So dinner (in the yellow v blue corner for demonstration purposes below), as I said fairly simple, but swapping the potatoes for cauli-mash, makes the meal as, if not more, filling for low carb eaters – perfect on a rainy Tuesday:

Low hassle dinner a deux chez LCNNC

Completely hassle free dinner for two, with two different diet options.

You will need:

2 salmon fillets

Spoon of pesto sauce (mine from a jar, but you could of course make your own!)

Spoon of Creme Fraiche

1 Courgette

New Potatoes

Cauliflower 1/4 or half a head for this recipe, but I find you may as well use it all and save some mash for the next evening)

Method – for both

Salomon fillets: Remove from packaging and sit on two squares of tin foil.  Drizzle a small amount of olive oil and lemon juice and spread over pesto sauce on top of each. Fold foil over into parcels, pop on an oven tray and cook for 15/20 mins on 200 deg c.

Mix the small amount of Creme Fraiche with tiny amount of pesto for a sauce to drizzle on top of the fish.

Courgetti Spaghetti – Create courgette strands using method here, then add to a frying pan with 3 tablespoons water and squeeze lemon juice, cook until water absorbed, for approx 5 mins – sprinkle of tarragon with this is also delicious.

Method – for carb v low-carb options

1) New potatoes – add to pan of boiling water for about 15 mins (if you do this same time as the fish, should hopefully coincide), add sauce or dressing, or as i’m requested to – let the recipient handle that bit!

2) Cauli-mash, using the recipe here, or even simpler – chop cauliflower florets and add to microwave steam bag.  Cook on high for approx 5-6 mins.  When soft empty into food processor and blend with tiny amount butter/cream/cheese as desired and salt and pepper to taste.

Enjoy a harmonious carb/low carb dinner for two!

Anyone else have any tips for sharing this WOE with family and friends?  Would love to hear about your experiences.

A longing for low carb Gnocchi or pasta? Try Gnudi!

8 Aug

Just before I started this way of eating I had a real ‘foodie’ friend come to visit. Quite frankly any of the usual dishes in my repertoire were not going to cut it, so I decided to up the anti and make my own pasta for dinner.  It took ages.  All the faffing around making the dough and getting it to the right consistency and rolling it to the right amount, never mind the fillings which I decided were the easy bit.

As I proudly served up my labour of love and watched my friend and OH chew.. and chew..  and chew.. I realised I had been so obsessed about making the pasta what I has actually served them was a boiled piece of dough with a TINY pocket of filling… good job I had made a good dessert!  Bad as that was it motivated me to 1) Kick-start the low carb as I had no desire to even look at pasta for a good long while and 2) gave me proof that fillings were definitely the important bit, and that I wouldn’t miss the pasta part anyway in my low-carb dieting.

And by and large I haven’t.   Having the courgette gadget to create courgetti spaghetti has certainly made it possible to have pasta-esque meals  using the sauces which were the main bit I missed, but after a long time eating this way, my thoughts have now and again turned to pasta (though not making it!) and how easy it is if you are entertaining or want an easy night of cooking, but short of picking off the outside of a Raviloi I was bemused as to how I could do this low-carb style.

So it was coincidental then, that it was while having one of these easy nights and having a night off in front of the TV that the answer came through, rather incongruously given the expertise hinted at in the title, Masterchef.  Myself and OH, like much of Britain, like to sit in front of this programme where contestants compete to cook restaurant standard dishes to please a couple of shouty men from the food profession.  There is not often much cause for low carb celebration (though was amazed to see a contestant once rewarded for their up-to-the-minute skills in cooking cauliflower mash –  which low carb fans have been enjoying for ages).  But in this episode, one recipe made me sit up straight and start thinking about dinner… Gnudi.

Gnudi is kind of a cross between Ravioli and Gnocchi.  Ravioli because it is essentially a way of cooking it without the pasta shell (naked, or nude hence the name) and Gnocchi because of the manner in which it is cooked like dumplings and boiled until they rise to the top.  I believe there are lots of ways of cooking this and I have deviated from the recipe I saw to ensure it is low carb – notably removing the flour from the recipe when making it and using ground almonds to roll the dumplings in before cooking (though as such a small amount of flour would be used for this, I suppose it wouldn’t be the end of the world if you were to keep that in).

What is great about these is even one is really filling, so might be a good option to have alongside a salad or a meal, OR you can really go to town in serving them in a dish as something that both carb and no-carb eaters can enjoy.  It would also make a great serving dish alongside a nice crisp salad.  Now that we are growing salad leaves on our balcony, I may just have to invite that friend back round and try again!

Step one.. mix all ingredients...

Low Carb Gnudi

3 Eggs

250 g Ricotta Cheese

120g Grated Parmesan Cheese

Frozen Chopped Spinach (approx 5 bundles, thawed)

Ground Almonds (approx two tablespoons) – or flour

Salt and Pepper to Taste

Step two... bring to the boil

Method:

Separate eggs and add the yolks to a bowl, mixing in the Ricotta Cheese and Parmesan.

Thaw the spinach and (importantly!) squeeze out any excess water.

Combine the spinach with the rest of the mixture and add salt and pepper to taste.

Sprinkle ground almonds over a small plate.

Scoop out small amounts and roll into a ball, then roll in the ground almonds or flour until coated.

Add to a pan of boiling water and boil for about 5 mins – Gnudi will have floated to the top of the water.

Remove with slotted spoon and serve straight away with sauce, or add to oven proof dish coat with a sauce and bake in oven for a further 5-10 mins and serve.

Step three - Low Carb Gnudi pasta/dumplings ready for the sauce or style of your choosing!

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