Monthly Archives: January 2015

Pizza (yes you can)

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I’d heard tell that you could make pizza using cauliflower but, frankly, dismissed the idea out of hand: repulsive, obviously – right?

But then someone sent me a link to this recipe and, in a fit of New Year ‘Why not?’-ness I decided to try it. Because pizza is probably the best example of something you that you don’t even allow yourself to hanker after, after a while on a carb-free diet – because what’s the point? You will never, ever have pizza again, I used to tell myself on particularly dark days, looking woefully at Tom’s empty ‘lone wolf’ pizza delivery box. But it’s not true! I tried this; it was super-easy to make and took a total of about eleven and a half minutes to prepare and twenty minutes to cook. I used ready-made pasta sauce for the topping, plus ham and mushrooms that I happened to have in the fridge, which puts it into the category of a very quick, very easy, and also pleasingly fun supper.

And the other thing to mention is…you know that stuffed-to-the-brim feeling you get after eating a whole pizza? Like you yourself have morphed into a (slightly regretful) giant dough-ball? You just don’t get that when the base is made from cauliflower.

I served it with a zingy coleslaw made with carrot, spring onion, cabbage, and raw beetroot (which makes it quite beautiful to look at) and home-made mayo. And a green salad. Then we scoffed the lot! So, now we can eat pizza together, and Tom is a lone wolf no more. Hurrah!

 

1 handful cheese shredded or grated

1 tsp dried oregano

1 eggs beaten

1/2 tsp garlic crushed

1/2 tsp garlic salt (I didn’t have any so used celery salt)

1 handful mushrooms/ham or whatever toppings you like

1 ball mozzarella shredded (I used cheddar because I can’t have mozzarella)

1 cauliflower florets chopped into chunks

1 tbsp tomato sauce for pizzas (I found a jar of pasta sauce made by ‘Organico’ which is just tomato, basil, olive oil garlic i.e. no added sugar: a rarity!)

Rice the cauliflower in the food processor by pulsing until it looks like grain. Do not over-pulse or you will puree it. If you don’t have a food processor, you can grate the whole head with a cheese grater.

Put it into a microwave safe bowl and microwave for 8 minutes – without adding water. One large head should produce approximately 3 cups of riced cauliflower (if you have left over you can store it in the fridge for a week).

Preheat the oven to 230C and spray a flat baking tray with non-stick cooking spray (I used quite a lot for fear of sticking).

In a medium bowl, stir together 1 cup of cauliflower, the egg and mozzarella. Add oregano, crushed garlic and garlic salt and stir.

Transfer to the baking sheet, and using your hands, pat out into a 9” round. You can brush olive oil over the top of the mixture to help with browning (I didn’t).

Bake for 15 minutes and then remove and cool.

Add sauce, toppings and cheese to the crust. Place under a grill at a high heat just until the cheese is melted, about 3-4 minutes.

Dance a little jig of joy that you are actually about to eat PIZZA!

 

 

 

simple fish cake with pesto dressing

Fish cake with pesto dressing

 

This is a good example of the kind of thing that, when I started on the carb-free road, I just thought I’d have to live without – after all, how do you make a fishcake without potato, flour and breadcrumbs? But I love a fishcake, I do. And why should I live without them? Why!? So, the other day when I was looking at some left over white bean mash and wondering what to do with it, I thought I’d just see if I could cobble together a fish cake using beans instead of potato, and almond flour instead of flour. And although the end result wasn’t as ‘contained’ as a traditional one, it was completely delicious, and the almond flour fried itself into a beautiful golden crisp which (especially when you are coming from the stand point of there otherwise being no fish cakes) was entirely satisfactory. Next time I might blend in some parmesan with the almonds and see if that creates more of a ‘crust’. And I might add some black olives to the bean/tuna mix for a bit of texture. But in the meantime, this entirely and happily scratched the fish cake itch (that I didn’t even know was bothering me until this mini epiphany) and the whole venture only took about twelve minutes. I whizzed up a pesto dressing, which is very easy to do and which was a fine companion but mayonnaise would have been, too. Add a crispy green salad and Bob’s your uncle, and Fanny is your aunt (as they say in the States, apparently).

Fish cake 

Leftover bean mash or a can of white beans. I use haricot (because of being on the Specific Carbohydrate diet) but any would do.

Can of tuna

egg and almond flour

In a bowl blend the beans and tuna together. If you are using beans from the tin you might consider frying them up first with a bit of spring onion and garlic to add taste.  Use your hands to make ‘patties’ – I made traditional burger shapes but I know people who swear by a cylinder which makes it easier to get at every angle when you are frying them. Whisk up your egg and put it on a plate. Sprinkle the almond flour on another plate. Coat the fish cake thoroughly in egg and then dip it in almond flour so it is as covered as you can make it. Then lightly fry until the flour is golden and it’s heated through.

Pesto dressing

This is MEGA easy to make BUT only really really if you have a food processor, so sorry if you don’t have one; you may have to make do with mayo instead. And sorry my amounts are so imprecise but so much of it comes down to your own taste, so seize the power and be a bit experimental, remembering you can always add more (harder to take away).  Also, a really good thing to remember about pesto, if you are going to the faff of making it, is that it freezes really well, so you might want to make too much on purpose. Just a thought.

Bunch basil

parmesan (how much depends on how big your bunch of basil is: start with a few cubes then add more if you think you need it).

garlic (to taste – but remember you’ll be eating it raw so err on the side of caution)

pine nuts (a couple of tablespoons, but more if you are making lots)

extra virgin olive oil and salt and pepper

Shove all the ingredients into the food processor. Start blitzing, while slowly adding olive oil until it’s the consistency you want. For a ‘dressing’ add more. For traditional pesto it’s a bit less.

The joy of…veg

The joy of...veg 1

Sometimes, on a Monday night in January, the doctor will order you to have a plate of vegetables for supper. The trick – as ever, well at least in my book – is to avoid worthiness at all costs, not least because ‘worthy’ so often goes hand in hand with feeling deprived.  This Monday night supper was made mainly from veg I had kicking around in the fridge – plus some sprouts that I actually left the house specifically to buy, which may sound queer, I grant you, BUT since I discovered the transformative powers of roasting sprouts, I have ushered them into my life with gusto, and you should too. The broccoli was just steamed, and you could leave it at that. I prefer, however, to chop it up with salt and pepper and some lovely, delicious butter (the hardest part of no toast and butter for six years? No butter!). The courgettes, I thinly sliced and fried with olive oil and garlic. And the squash is the closest things to potatoes that my life these days allows but is still delicious every time I eat it (which is to say, many times per month). I served it with haricoumous (like hummus, made with posh beans). Then to unite them all, I shaved some parmesan on top. A good example of a meal that is meat and carb free, but leaves you missing neither, not even for a nano-second. Just what the doctor ordered.

Roasted sprouts

Am I alone in being slightly bereft to find out that a couple of local supermarkets seem to have stopped selling sprouts just because Christmas is over? Probably. But just in case you are a sprout lover too, and have a lovely Turkish veg shop nearby, like I do, then here goes:

Sprouts (as many as you like), trimmed and cut in half

salt, pepper, oil

This is so simple, but roasting really does turn sprouts from being slightly punishing, into a pleasure. Just arrange the half sprouts in a roasting tin. Splash some oil and salt and pepper, using your hands to make sure each sprout has been anointed with oil. Roast at about 180 degrees for about 40 minutes. They are done when the outer layers are coming away and a bit char grilled and crispy, and the insides are soft, which probably removes at least half of any nutritional value – but half is better than none, right?

Pan fried courgettes

I know a lot of people object to the watery mealiness of courgettes, and I can see their point but this is a good way to take courgettes down a different path. I slice them as thinly as possible – if you have a grater with a slicing side, that’s probably the easiest way to do it. Then pan fry, with some garlic and oil, until they are super soft.

Courgettes (I allow one medium courgette per person as a side dish), thinly sliced.

salt, pepper, oil, garlic.

This is so simple it barely needs instructions: just bung the courgettes in a pan (I favour a wok saucepan) with some oil. After about five minutes add the garlic, either crushed or sliced (amount wise, very much to taste; I think I probably use more than the average punter) and pepper. Cook until the slices have sort of melted together – at least 20 minutes, sometimes more. Don’t salt until the end (to avoid creating too much liquid).

Spicy squash

I think I first had this, or something like this, at Bistroteque and then came home quite fixated upon trying it out myself. The chilli powder really adds another, caramelised, dimension to squash (something which  I had barely eaten, before following this diet, but which I have learned to really love). A note on chilli powders, however, which is that they seriously vary in power and this doesn’t taste as nice when the chilli powder is too strong. I have tried a few and the best is definitely Sainsbury’s mild chilli powder, which is so mild as to be barely chilli-ish at all, but which works exactly the magic you are after. The main obstacle with this is the preparation of the squash, which is a faff BUT I can’t emphasise enough the happiness and speed that results from the right peeler (Lakeland do the best squash peeler I have ever found, and it’s under a fiver: http://www.lakeland.co.uk/15805/Vegetable-Peeler)

One large squash, peeled, de-seeded and chopped into smallish chunks

oil, salt, pepper, mild chilli powder

Once you have chopped the squash, the work is over, and all you do is arrange it in a roasting tin, splash on some oil, salt and pepper and liberal shakes of mild chilli powder (if it is Sainburys; if it is another brand you almost certainly should be positively miserly). Roast for 45 mins to an hour at 180 degrees until crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.

 

 

Spicy New Year’s Day eggs (and Prosecco)

SPICY NEW YEARS EGGS AND PROSECCOSPICY NEW YEARS EGGS AND PROSECCO 2

 

Somehow, I woke up with a massive yen for something spicy on New Year’s Day. And eggs. And a bit of chilli zing was just what I needed after slight martini head (only slight, due to inevitable 7am wake up, obviously). So I made a spicy tomato sauce, which is one of those very-little-effort-to-a-high-yield-of-deliciousness dishes, and we cracked eggs into it; a sort of poor man’s version of huevos rancheros.

The secret to a good tomato sauce (I discovered when I did a cooking afternoon at the Cucina Caldesi a few years ago) is lashings – and I really do mean lashings; glugs more than you’d ever even consider normally – of extra virgin olive oil. Also, if you put your garlic cloves in whole – slightly crushed with the back of a knife – it flavours, without over powering. You can add your chilli to taste and, obviously, you don’t have to add eggs, but it’s a really great one pot supper if you do (and also stops you from asking, “But where is the pasta?”).

Tomato sauce (from Giancarlo Caldesi) 

Red onion, finely chopped

About 6 tablespoons olive oil

2 garlic cloves, peeled and whole

1 chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped

chilli flakes (if you like it really spicy)

2 tins of tomatoes

salt and pepper

200 ml warm veg stock or water

Fry the onion for about 5 minutes until it’s soft. Add the garlic and chilli and cook for another minute making sure you don’t burn the garlic. Add the salt and pepper and tomatoes (bash them with a wooden spoon to break them up a bit) and then the stock (which makes sure that the sauce doesn’t catch on the pan and burn). Add the oil and turn down the heat to a simmer and cook for about 40 minutes.

You can eat straight away but it also keeps for at least a week, so you can heat it up when you need it, and if you want to add eggs, wait until it’s hot; make a dip for each egg and put a lid on the top so they cook on top too (or you could put them under a grill if you are slightly phobic about uncooked albumen, as I am). I served it with grated cheese on top and a green salad but slightly wished I’d made some really limey guacamole too.

New year supper for two (and bub-bye FOMO)

NEW YEARS EVE SALMONNEW YEARS EVE STEAK

I’ve come to accept the fact that New Year’s resolutions don’t really work for me. But this year I heard of two things that I quite liked the sound of. The first is that in the run up to midnight on New Year’s Eve, you write down all the things from the preceding year that you didn’t much like and would like to say goodbye to on a piece of paper – which you then ceremoniously burn as a sort of declaration that it’s over and never coming back.  What the heck, it may be mumbo jumbo, but what have you got to lose? So. After toying with some habitual FOMO (by which I will be forever plagued, being the youngest of four children) – namely, should we be going out to a raucous party (who has raucous parties these days anyway?) or throwing a small dinner for 8-12), we decided to stay in and see the year in with a fire (for burning paper scraps); martinis, smoked fish and steak with béarnaise sauce. And after we ate that (the steak is only really to justify the béarnaise, I realised) at 11pm ish we wrote our unwanted happenings down (including FOMO, in my case) and burned them. And that is how we said goodbye to the old, and hello to 2015, which brings me to the other thing I heard about, which I like the sound  of. On the one hand it  may sound a bit like new-age crap, but on the other, it somehow tickles my fancy: over the next year, whenever something happens that you want to remember because it is so lovely, or joyful, or happy, or funny, write it down on a piece of paper, and put it in a jar, to be opened on New Year’s Eve 2015 (presumably before or after you have burned all the moments you want to forget or things will get in a bit of a tangle). Here is to a very happy 2015 – with many delicious snacks. Hurrah! 

Smoked salmon

Obviously, this is not really a recipe; more of a suggestion. We ordered posh smoked salmon from Able and Cole and, I have to say, the difference between that (smoky, and sort of matt compared to emulsion) and the supermarket stuff you can buy in bulk for about 2.95 (which can be greasy and tasteless) was remarkable. It is well worth having it four times less frequently and spending four times as much.  Also, I suggest serving it with a small ramekin of horseradish (The English Provender Co. make neat horseradish which you can mix with home-made mayo or yoghurt but I quite like it neat) and another of cornichons. I insist on serving salmon with toothpicks, due to a long-standing phobia of fishy light switches and fridge handles, the smell of which lingers for days after just a couple of careless fishy-fingered touches (shudder). Served with a martini this felt delicious and special – but not too filling.

Steak bearnaise (from How to Eat by Nigella Lawson)

After reading about meat farming it’s pretty obvious that, really, we’ve all got to become vegetarian. Until that happens, however, I resolve to try and eat organic meat that has been sustainably produced – just a lot less of it. So our steaks were organic Duchy ones. And Tom made the béarnaise, which consists of the following ingredients and an awful lot of whisking. This serves 4 but we made it all for the 2 of us and definitely ate more than half (Hello, festive layer. And woe!). We ate it with zesty green salad, white bean mash (of course) and spicy squash (also, of course).

1-2 shallots, chopped finely (to yield 1 tbs)

2 tbs fresh tarragon leaves, chopped, and their stalks, chopped roughly and bruised

1 tbs chervil, chopped

2 tbs wine or tarragon vinegar

2 tbs white wine

1 tsp peppercorns (preferably white), crushed or bruised

3 egg yolks

1 tbs water

200g soft unsalted butter, cut into 1cm dice

juice of 1/4 – 1/2 lemon

Put the shallots, tarragon stalks, 1 tablespoonful each of the chopped tarragon and chervil leaves, the vinegar, wine and peppercorns into a heavy-based saucepan and boil until reduced to about 1 tablespoon. Don’t move from the stove: this doesn’t take long. Equally you can use 4 tablespoonfuls of vinegar and omit the wine.

Press the reduced liquid through a sieve or tea strainer and leave to cool. Put egg yolks and water into a bowl. Set over a pan of water that has come to a simmer. Add the reduced and strained liquid and whisk well. Keep whisking as you add the butter, cube by cube until it is all absorbed. Taste, and season and add lemon juice as you wish. Treat it as hollandaise to keep it warm and avert curdling. Stir in the remaining tablespoon of fresh chopped tarragon as you’re about to serve it. Serve with steaks, fried in a hot pan for a short time, and green salad made bloody with the juices.

 

 

Christmas supper (with not a creature stirring, all through the house)

CHRISTMAS SUPPER 5CHRISTMAS SUPPER 4CHRISTMAS SUPPER 3CHRISTMAS RED CABBAGE

Christmas 2014. One of the (few, it has to be said) advantages of having no parents around is that you can make your own Christmas plans without having to adhere to traditions of yore. Which, among other things means…you don’t have to have turkey: brilliant! So although in the past we have stuck to the rule book, this was the year that we shook things up a bit. In years gone by we (as in, collective members of my family) have slaved over a Christmas lunch for six to ten adults and five to eight children, the latter of whom have sat down for precisely three and a half minutes and then left almost everything we have lovingly cooked, sprouts and all, on account of extreme excitement and too much chocolate coursing round their systems. It’s just not relaxing, trying to enjoy your meal when there are a team of whirling dervishes trashing the house above you. So this year I had what I thought was a brainwave: everyone was invited to our house from 3pm for a kids tea, with all the food that kids like (sandwiches with no crusts, baby bels, sausages, Battenburg cake, jammy dodgers. So, so grateful that there was not a sprout in sight). We did presents, the kids went a bit berserk, then we put a Christmas movie on while the adults ate smoked salmon blinis (without the blini for some, obv), quails eggs, and sophisticated sausages with dijonaise dip, plus a glass of Prosecco or two.  All very soothing and genuinely enjoyable, not least because the house was filled with the aroma of very untraditional pork belly, marinaded in herbs and slow cooking in time to eat when all the little creatures had been put to bed and not even a mouse was stirring in the house. At bed-time some of the adults and children left, and my sister and her husband plus kids stayed for a sleepover. And at 8pm-ish, we sat down to eat pork belly, spicy squash (of course), red cabbage done two ways (braised, with honey and vinegar, and, to offset everything with a bit of fresh, crispy red coleslaw). Everyone else had gratin dauphinoise too, which I had made the day before. It was civilised, and delicious, and honestly I think everyone – kids included – had a very happy time.

 Crispy red coleslaw 

Red cabbage

2 or 3 carrots

2 or 3 spring onions

Home made mayonnaise

This is super easy, and best made as close to eating as possible. I find the best way to slice the cabbage, which you really do want as close to wafer thin as possible, is with a vegetable peeler (there is a ‘sharp peel’ range made in Japan, sold at lovely Lakeland that  – sad as this definitely sounds – makes peeling and coleslaw making an immensely satisfying pleasure. The only thing to bear in mind is that they are so sharp that I actually took the top of my little finger off once, when making red cabbage for my parents-in-law, and didn’t want to make a fuss so had to try and hide the fact that I was practically passing out with the pain). I am very slapdash with quantities and just start off with the cabbage, thinly  slicing it into a big bowl until it looks about right, depending on how many are eating (this is one of the few dishes I make that doesn’t do well as a leftover because it’s not nice when soggy). Once you’ve got a good cabbage base, grate your carrots in – it will still look predominantly red, but with a pretty smattering of orange. Then finely chop your spring onions, add a hefty dollop of mayo, lots of salt and pepper and then mix it all up, transferring to a clean bowl if you care about appearances, which on Christmas Day of course, one must.

Braised red cabbage (adapted from  a Jamie Oliver recipe) 

1 medium red cabbage, outer leaves removed, chopped into irregular chunks

2 rashers nice bacon, finely sliced

1 tablespoon of fennel seeds, bashed

1 medium onion

2 desert apples, peeled and cored

150ml Apple cider vinegar

 

Knob of butter

Handful of chopped parsley

Heat up some olive oil and add the bacon and fennel seeds. Cook until golden then add the onion and continue to cook, with the lid on, for a few more minutes until golden and sticky. Add the apple, followed by the cabbage chunks, salt and pepper and the vinegar, and stir. Put the lid back on and continue to cook on a low heat for an hour, checking and stirring every so often. Scoop it into a serving dish, add butter knobs, and sprinkle over the parsley.

Three hour pork belly (taken from BBC Good food)

2 tbsp fennel seeds

1 tsp black peppercorns

1 small bunch thyme, leaves only

3 garlic cloves

3 tbsp olive oil

1½ -2kg/3lb 5oz-4lb 8oz piece boneless pork belly, skin scored

2 lemons

When planning our subversive non-turkey Christmas supper we did actually contemplate having fillet of beef but decided on pork belly because it is honestly as delicious but about six times cheaper. We forgot to marinade it overnight so did it in the morning, and it was delicious.

To make the marinade, toast the fennel seeds and peppercorns in a dry frying pan for a couple of mins. Grind in a pestle and mortar with some flaked sea salt, the thyme and garlic to make a paste. Mix with 2 tbsp olive oil and rub all over the flesh (but NOT the skin, because it won’t crackle) of the pork. Cover and chill, leaving to marinate for a few hours or overnight.

When you are ready to cook it, rub the skin of the joint with plenty of salt and 1 tbsp more olive oil. Sit on a wire rack in a roasting tin and roast at 200C/180C fan/gas 6 for 30 mins. After that, squeeze the lemons over the skin and turn the heat down to 180C/ 160C fan/gas 4. Roast for another 2 hrs.

Then, turn the heat back up to 220C/ 200C fan/gas 7 and give it a final blast for another 30 mins or so, to finish the crackling. Allow to rest somewhere warm for 20 mins. Carve up into chunks or slices and serve, ideally with some delightful red wine.