Tag Archives: recipe

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!

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!

Green Army!

8 Jul

Exciting news courgette lovers.  I, the girl who formally even managed to kill off a cactus, appear to be growing courgette on my balcony!  Myself and the OH are similarly black fingered when it comes to horticulture, but thanks to a kind benefactor (his brother with a HUGE secret garden-esque garden) we received the plant which had already been nurtured into some form of existence.  Now we come home from work each day, head straight out to the balcony to feed it gallons of water and check progress (yes! we are now balcony garden geeks!) and await further developments.  Check them out:

Growing courgettes - can't wait to get them in the kitchen!

All very exciting and will keep you updated because (if they survive long enough to harvest) as they are low carb staples, will definitely be posting some courgette and tomato (yes growing those too!) recipes on here as I try them.  Back in my pre-grower-status days I vaguely recall hearing about recipes including the flowers too.  Anyone got any good ideas now that I may be able to utilise them?

BG8EUAHBR8RS

Cauliflower Comfort

5 Jun

As many low carb devotees will know, as you become more accustomed to this way of eating, cauliflower becomes your new best friend.  I too had previously tolerated cauliflower on sufferance, relegating it alongside the many other tasteless/mushy/disgusting school dinners I was made to eat when young.  But wait – tough times call for tough measures and I was persuaded to take another look at what this low carb wonder veg could do – and have been impressed!

Prior to following this diet, my favourite comfort food was a pasta bake with cheese sauce, with mushrooms onion and bacon.  I had hand crafted my recipe to perfection, taking particular pleasure in creating a crunchy topping with breadcrumbs, which broke open to reveal the creamy pasta and sauce inside.  This was my fail safe dish whenever I was low or as a sunday food when I had had a big weekend and even the mere thought of it cheered me up.

Since then, I have been ‘pasta free’ for over a year, and strangely (as a former carb addict) don’t miss the stuff that much anymore.  However, the cheesy comfort provided by that dish recently prompted a wave of nostalgia and I sought to create a similar comfort food type.  I have tried chicken/meat in a cheese sauce before now but it’s just not the same – especially as am not eating flour (and my liberal inclusion of that particular ingredient to make a rich sauce alongside loads of butter was another highlight of my pasta dish and, I suspect, reason to my prior weight gain!).  So, when needing food of comfort, I have been loving the fake mash potatoes pureed cauliflower stands in to provide and took this just a step further with my dish below.  Great as an accompaniment – but also on its own!

Cheesy fake-bake Potato

2 x cauliflowers (London supermarkets seem to only sell tiny ones, but one if the large variety is available near you!)

2  x Tablespoons cream cheese

1 x Tablespoon creme fraiche

Approx 2 x handfuls grated Cheddar cheese

Approx 2 x tablespoons Parmesan cheese

Chopped Ham / Cooked Bacon (I used 1 slice of bacon and 2 of ham, but this depends on your preference)

Salt and Pepper

Method:

1)  Remove leaves and stalks from the cauliflowers, cutting the remaining cauliflower into smallish chunks.

2)  Either boil or steam cauliflower until soft and tender.*

3)  Add to food processor along with the cream cheese and creme fraiche and blitz until smooth – use the sharp balde attchment for the food processor to ensure this is mashed properly.

4)  Once a smooth conistancy (be prepared to give it a fair bit of time – the dish honestly works better once you’ve eliminated all the lumps) add one handful of the grated cheese , plus salt and pepper to taste, and blitz again until all mixed in.

5)  Transfer cauliflower puree mix to (ideally Pyrex) dish and smooth out until surface is even. To this add your chopped ham/bacon/meat until covered.

6)  Over this, add the second handful of grated Cheedar, then the grated Parmesan to cover (this is what will crisp your topping to breadcrumb-eqe status!) over that.

7)  Pop under grill for around five minutes, or until top crispy and browned.

8)  Enjoy!

*  I have just discovered steamer bags for the microwave, which can be picked up in Poundland no less – best pound I have spent in a long while…  For ease of use, speed and most importantly eliminating the toxic cauliflower smell that made my flat smell like an old peoples home -I salute them!

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