Category Archives: sauces

So what’s the alternative to chips?

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If you have ever tried to give up carbs, or even just tried to eat fewer of them then I don’t need to tell you how hard it is to feel full – and how easy it is to feel deprived.

Now I am seven years into my own carb-free journey, I am much less deranged with deprivation than I was for the first year during which I would – literally – go to bed dreaming about bread, cake and crisps. But there is no denying the fact that sometimes all the green veg in the world, delicious as they may be, just don’t quite cut the mustard on the fullness front.

And, since the secret to being happy on a carb-free diet is to find ways not to feel deprived, these three dishes are total stalwarts on my weekly menu, being that holy trinity of easy, delicious – and satisfying.

They each involve quite large and unwieldy vegetables though, so these are three recipes where it really pays to have a robust and sharp knife and, in the case of the cauliflower rice, a food processor. Having said that, I have made it with a grater, and it’s fine – just a bit more work. The other thing to mention about cauliflower rice is that when I first made it, I used to microwave it, which totally does the trick. But roasting it, with a bit of oil, both brings out the flavour and dries it out too, which is a good thing when you are eating it with curry or something else a little bit saucy that needs mopping up.

The faff of both the celeriac and the squash is mainly in the preparation. You really do need a decent peeler but once you have one – I use the sharp peeler from Lakeland which is under a fiver but honestly the best peeler I have ever used – you will make short work of even the toughest and rootiest veg. And the faff-factor is so worth it for the resulting crispy gorgeousness, which is so good it can even eclipse actual chips!

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Cauliflower rice

1 medium sized cauliflower

½ fresh chilli, seeds removed and finely chopped

handful chopped coriander

ground nut oil

Preheat the oven to 200C. Remove the outer leaves from the cauliflower, cut it into quarters and remove most of the thick core, then cut each quarter into two or three chunks. To avoid overloading the blender, blitz it in two or three batches, for 30 seconds or so, until the cauliflower resembles fine rice. If you are grating, use the coarse side of the grater.

Toss the rice in a drizzle of oil in a baking tray and spread it out to a thin, even layer. Then roast for 12 minutes, mixing halfway through cooking. Season after cooking, and add the finely chopped chilli and coriander (or other herbs, depending on what you are making to serve with it).

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Celeriac chips with home-made aioli.

 1 celeriac

ground nut oil

salt and pepper

paprika

Preheat the oven to 190C.
 Wash and peel the celeriac, which is no mean feat! Slice off the top and bottom and cut the celeriac into thumb-thick slices and then into fat chip shapes (or thin, if you prefer).

Put in to a large bowl and toss in a little oil, and sea salt then put into the oven. After 15 minutes carefully toss the chips with two spatulas (so they don’t disintegrate) then cook for another 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Season with a dusting of paprika.

Aioli

½ small clove garlic , peeled

sea salt

freshly ground black pepper

1 large free-range egg yolk

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

285 ml extra virgin olive oil

285 ml olive oil

lemon juice , to taste

Smash up the garlic with one teaspoon of salt in a pestle and mortar, or with the flat of a large knife. Place the egg yolk and mustard in a bowl and whisk together, then start to add your oils bit by bit. Once you’ve blended in a quarter of the oil, you can start to add the rest in larger amounts. When the mixture thickens, add lemon juice. When all the oil has gone in, add the garlic then season to taste. Et voila!

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Spicy butternut squash

1 squash

oil

salt and pepper

mild chilli powder

Preheat your oven to 190C. Peel and de-seed your squash, cut into 1cm cubes as evenly as possible (easier said than done, so don’t get too hung up on accuracy).

Before putting into the roasting pan, I put them into a large bowl to toss them in oil using my hands to make sure they are evenly coated. Once in the pan, shake pretty liberal quantities of chilli powder and sea salt and again, toss to make sure they are coated. A word about chilli powders: I use Sainsbury’s mild chilli powder which is as good as its word but be warned that other types of mild chilli powders can be no such thing so it is a good idea to proceed with caution if you haven’t tried whatever brand you are using before.

Roast for 25-30 minutes before gently tossing and dislodging any cubes that are stuck, and finish cooking for another 20 or so minutes or until they are totally soft when you fork them, and deliciously chewy and caramelised.

Easy peasy Boxing Day hollandaise

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One of the nicest things about this time of year is that everything stops. Suddenly, there is time to do things like squander a whole morning looking through old photos in your pyjamas, or embark on a spontaneous decluttering toy-culling frenzy to make room for the new. And, of course, there is time to cook!

The other day we went on a blustery Boxing Day walk at what felt like the crack of dawn but was really 10am and, after a couple of hours out and about, felt therefore perfectly justified in heading home for a late morning sherry (Tom, not me – I can’t drink fortified things, more is the pity) and a very leisurely and decadent breakfast of eggs royale (without the muffin, obv).

This was the first time I’ve felt brave enough to depart from my known breakfast repertoire in order to try the extremely easy-peasy (but nerve-wracking just by virtue of being new) version of hollandaise sauce that I learned during my week at Leiths. I have made hollandaise before, but it’s one of those fearful sauces that has the potential to split. And a split sauce means not only a waste of both butter and time but, more than that, the colossal disappointment of having to be hollandaise-less.

This version, though, is  more like making mayonnaise, which I do all the time and therefore feel fearless about.  I’m sure there are some people out there who thing that if you are not fiddling around with a bain-marie, constant whisking and extreme red-faced tension, then it’s not proper. But, frankly, if they do it at Leiths, then it’s proper enough for me. More importantly though it’s completely darned delicious! Plus I can’t tell you how do-able it felt (don’t be spooked by the reduction, which is the work of moments). In fact my main fear about this is that it’s *so* easy to make, we are going to start making it at the drop of a hat, willy nilly, and then buttery ruin will ensue as none of our trousers will fit any more. Oh dear.  

Hollandaise

Makes 250-300ml

For the reduction

50ml white wine vinegar

50 ml water

6 black peppercorns

1 bay leaf

1 mace blade

For the sauce

150 g unsalted butter

3 egg yolks

Few drops lemon juice, to taste

salt and white ground pepper

Since this was a spontaneous affair, I had to forgo the mace for the reduction, as we didn’t have any. And although I’m sure mace adds to the flavour, I didn’t rue the lack of it.

Make the reduction by putting ingredients into a small pan and bringing it to a simmer until the liquid has reduced by at least two thirds. Keep an eye out as this happens quite quickly. Leave to cool.

Then place your egg yolk, 2 tsp of reduction and pinch of salt into your blender. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over a medium heat. Once it is starting to separate and is bubbling, pour a little into the blender with the motor running. Add a little more and the emulsion should be created. Continue to add the butter, very slowly, in a thin stream until all but the milk solids are added. Avoid adding the solids as they can thin the sauce. Taste and season with more reduction, lemon juice and salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, poach a couple of eggs (or get a willing assistant to, as timing is of the essence with this dish) and place lovingly onto some smoked salmon, although ham works too.

Eat immediately!