Low-Carb Healthy Eatin’ for The Serious Food Lover
So, how does the Serious Food Lover create a healthy eating plan? This is the first in a series where we will discuss that! It’s all too easy to get sucked into the vortex of anything pastry-related, triple-crème brie, buttery chicken liver pâté, chocolate mousse, liverwurst and icecream for dinner (or maybe that’s just me?), but sadly all of those things in excessive quantities are likely to send us into an early (but perhaps blissful) death. As foodies, we’re also constantly being told what to eat and what not to eat by nosy but well-meaning friends and family, when all we want to do is consume large quantities of prosciutto in peace. And you know what? We can – with the help of low-carb diets. No joke – low-carb diets (meaning a diet in which fewer than 100 grams of carbohydrates, including all sugars and starchy veggies like potatoes, are consumed each day) have been proven to reduce blood pressure, cholesterol and triglycerides, lower insulin response and blood glucose levels, and in many cases even reverse type-2 diabetes. (For a good overview on the science behind this, visit: http://www.reddit.com/r/keto/wiki/faq#wiki_the_science_behind_keto) So by reducing our carb intake we can feel slightly better about sitting in front of the tv and gnawing on a confit leg of duck.
Now, we’re sure you’re probably recoiling in horror at the thought of giving up spuds and pasta, let alone things like tarte tatin, but bear with us. Eating low-carb and healthily is MUCH more pleasurable than you may imagine. Animal proteins (rib eye steak! Duck breast! Spatchcock! Lamb chops!) and vegetables (asparagus basted in butter! Green beans in a fresh tomato reduction! Grilled eggplant!) form the basis of a low-carb diet, as you might expect, but fats – especially butter and olive oil – are also encouraged. This means that instead of boiling your broccoli until it’s soggy and flavourless, as you might do on a conventional diet, you can steam it for a minute or two and then finish it in a hot pan with olive oil and slivered almonds and sea salt, and scoff it without guilt. There are also many clever substitutes for the delicious carby things you may be missing, the first of which – cauliflower – we will showcase here.
Cauliflower: Low-carb miracle food!
The humble cauliflower is – aside from being delicious – very high in vitamins C, K and B6, and is an excellent source of fibre. It can also be used to create substitutes for quite a few of your favourite carb-based recipes, and perhaps the simplest is:
This barely even constitutes a recipe, it’s so easy: just wash your cauli (about 1/3rd of a head for two people) and chop it into florets, then pop it into a blender or food processor and blitz until it’s roughly the same size as grains of rice. Chuck it in a bowl, cover it (glad wrap with a couple of stabs of a fork to let the steam escape a little works well) and microwave on high for 4-5 minutes, depending on how firm you want your ‘rice’ to be. Cauliflower rice will soak up the sauce from any curry or stir-fry you make, provide bulk and texture, and make you feel great! You can also process it a little less to make an excellent couscous substitute.
Cauli is also wonderful when it takes the place of potato:
This goes beautifully in any dish where you’d ordinarily have mashed potato and the added sweetness of the cauliflower is a real joy and adds another layer of flavour to your meal.
For two people, you’ll need:
- A third of a head of cauliflower
- 100ml pouring cream
- 50g salted butter
- 100g parmesan, freshly grated
- Salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste
Prepare the cauliflower like you would for the cauliflower rice above, but microwave for a little longer: 5-6 minutes should do. Put the cauliflower, cream, butter and parmesan into a food processor or blender and blitz til smooth and all combined, and add the salt, pepper and nutmeg according to your own desires.
Cauliflower and leek soup
Vichyssoise – the classic French leek and potato soup – is here served hot and given a twist with the use of cauliflower. This is a beautiful winter warmer, and ridiculously easy!
For four people, as an appetizer, you’ll need:
- 125g salted butter
- One big brown onion, finely diced
- Two large leeks, white parts only, finely chopped
- One whole cauliflower, chopped into florets
- 1 litre of chicken stock
- 100ml pouring cream
- Salt and pepper to taste
Take a large pot and get the butter foaming in it, and add the leek and onion. Gently fry these – taking care to just sweat them, you don’t want any colour – until soft and translucent. Add the cauliflower and fry for a minute or two, then add the chicken stock until all the vegetables are just covered. Simmer until the cauliflower is soft when poked with a knife, and remove from the heat. Use a stick blender to blend it until smooth and shiny (you may also use a food processor for this, but remember to let the soup cool before blending, otherwise you’ll paint your kitchen with it!), add the cream, salt and pepper, stir and serve. Traditionally you’d serve this with a big loaf of crusty bread, but as this is a low-carb diet special, that’s a no-no. However, trust us when we say that this soup doesn’t need it!
Cauliflower can also be used to make pizza crusts (not joking here either) for when nothing but a big pizza will do, and is also gorgeous fried in ghee with cumin, curry leaves and turmeric. It is one of the heroes of our Patented Food Lovers’ Low-Carb Healthy Eating Plan (not actually patented, but it sounds good!), give it a go!