Tag Archives: food

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!

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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….

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