All posts by Alison Starr

I'm a long-term low carber. I originally starting low carbing to lose weight, but all the reading I have done about it, and its benefits, have convinced me that it's a way of eating (WOE) that is worth continuing with.

Cauliflower pizza

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So another way of doing pizza!

The cauliflower is an extraordinarily versatile vegetable.  For too many years I only ever thought about it as cauliflower cheese.  But since I’ve been low carbing, I’ve discovered just how many different dishes it can be used in.  I have to confess, though, that when I first heard that you could make pizza out of cauliflower, I really wasn’t convinced!  Eventually, though, I gave it a try. And even though it wasn’t perfect the first time, I could really see the potential.

Making pizza out of cauliflower is more time-consuming that just ordering out, or buying a ready-made one.  But if you’re a committed low carber, and you want pizza, it’s not half bad!

Here’s what you do:

Ingredients for the base

One cauliflower
One ball of mozzarella
50g Parmesan
One egg

Here’s how to make it.

Step one:

– Cut the leaves off the cauliflower, and then cut it into florets
– In a food processor, blitz the florets until they’re the consistency of couscous
– Tip this into a microwave-safe bowl, cover, and microwave on high for 8 minutes
– Set aside and let it cool
– Whilst it’s cooling, grate the cheeses

Step two:

– When it’s cooled, tip the cauliflower onto a clean tea towel or muslin, pull all the corners together, twist and then squeeze so that you’re getting all the moisture out of the cauliflower.  It will release a surprising amount of liquid!  Keep going until you’ve got as much moisture out as you can
– Put the cauliflower into a large bowl, add the grated cheeses and the egg.  Season with black pepper.  Mix together with your hands and press it together into a ball

Step three:

If you have a pizza stone, this is good to use.  Otherwise, a heavy baking tray is fine.  (Non-stick is preferable)  Put the oven on, at around 200 (fan)

– Tip the cauliflower mixture on to the stone/tray, and using your fingers, press it out into a round, as evenly as possible
– Bake it in the oven for around 10-15 minutes until it’s browned.  You’re aiming to cook it, but also dry it out.
– After this time, if you can, turn it over so that you can also cook the other side.  If it’s stuck a bit, turn the oven off, but put the base back in for another 10-15 minutes.  You’re aiming to dry it out rather than cook it much more.

It should look like this:

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Then you’re ready to add your toppings.

This is what I did:

Tomato sauce

One carton of chopped tomatoes (I used Sainsbury’s Basics)
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt/black pepper
2 cloves of garlic

How to make it:

– In a medium sized saucepan, heat the olive oil
– Add the tomatoes, and bring to the boil
– Season with the salt and pepper
– Simmer until reduced and thickened (takes about 10 minutes)
– Add the garlic, finely chopped, or crushed in a garlic press

Allow this to cool before you top the cauliflower base.

What you then add to the pizza is up to you.  I used:

– two shallots, finely sliced
– one red chilli, sliced
– pepperoni
– black olives
– slices of mozzarella (one ball)
– a good shake of dried oregano

It looked like this before it went in the oven:

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Bake for around 10-15 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the shallots are sufficiently cooked.

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Before serving, garnish with some leaves of fresh basil.

And enjoy!

Hopefully it is dry/cooked enough for you to be able to pick up a slice; but if it’s a bit soggy in the middle, don’t worry.  It still tastes like pizza, and it’s really satisfying!

Another office lunch – the ‘no pizza pizza’

I was struggling today to stay on my low carb track.  I wanted pizza.  Or a Pret a Manger chicken jalapeño wrap.  Both of which would have been way too many carbs.  Thankfully I managed to resist the temptation of both, and en route to Sainsbury’s was inspired to try making something that would give me the hot, spicy, tomatoey and cheesey thing that I was craving, but without the carb-laden base.

So here it is.  A ‘no pizza pizza’:

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This is what I used:

0000001128291_L A large vine tomato, thinly sliced

0000001763522_LHalf a pack of sliced, cooked chicken

0000001248692_L7 or 8 slices of pepperoni

0000001304893_LA whole ball of mozzarella

3076820005133_LSome black olives

8727200501046_L Some chopped jalapenos

0000001536850_L and a sprinkling of oregano

And this is how I made it:

Firstly, cover the base of a dinner plate with some olive oil, and lay the slices of tomato out on top, covering the plate.  Season with salt and black pepper.  Cook this on high for one minute.

Then add the slices of chicken, pepperoni and mozzarella.

Top with the olives and jalapeños, and then season with a little bit of salt and plenty of black pepper, and a sprinkling of the oregano.

Cook on high for 3 minutes.

Et voila!  No pizza pizza.

Cheesy Cabbage Bake

I like cabbage, in any of its forms.  But I particularly like it braised in lots of butter, with shallots and lemon. Tonight I took this a step further, and really enjoyed the result.  So much so, I could have happily scoffed the lot and left the meat I was serving it with!

This will give you enough for 3-4 depending on what other vegetable dishes you’re serving.

Ingredients

1 medium white cabbage, diced roughly (you want fairly large pieces, not little dainty squares)
4 – 6 echallion shallots, peeled and chopped
2 cloves of garlic
juice of a lemon
1 ball of mozzarella, diced
120g mature cheddar, grated
50g butter

Method

Boil the cabbage in salted water till it’s soft – about 5 minutes – and then drain (we’re not going for al dente here!)

In the same pan, melt the butter, then add the shallots and garlic (either finely diced or using a garlic press) and stir till softened and starting to brown.  Season with some black pepper.

Add the cabbage and stir together, and continue to cook on a high heat for a couple of minutes, till it starts to turn golden brown, and then add the lemon juice.  Cook for another couple of minutes on a medium heat, then stir in the diced mozzarella.

Tip all of this straight away into an oven dish, and cover the top with the grated cheddar.

Bake in a hot oven for around 20 minutes until the cheese on the top has turned a deep golden brown.

Celeriac and leek mash

It’s cold at the moment.  Although we haven’t yet had snow in the tropics of SW London it’s still very wintery, and comfort food is a very attractive option right now.  So I had shepherd’s pie on my mind when thinking about dinner on the way home from work last night.

I’ve used mashed celeriac before, but it doesn’t quite do it for me, for some reason.  But adding leeks makes all the difference.

It’s not the most common of vegetables, so here’s a picture of what it looks like:

celeriac

I used half a celeriac, weighing around 450g which amazingly, given that it’s a root vegetable, only comes to a total of 9.95g carbs.

Take a thin slice off the top and the bottom, and then peel the skin away and all the gnarly bits around the root.  Then cut it into small chunks, about the size of an Oxo cube, and boil in salted water for around 15 minutes, until it’s soft.  Slice two leeks (slices about 1 cm should be fine) and add these to the celeriac, and boil for another couple of minutes until the leeks are cooked.

Then drain the vegetables, let them steam for a little to make sure that there isn’t too much moisture on them, tip them back into the pan, and blend with a large knob of butter, salt and black pepper and a generous tablespoon of full fat natural yoghurt.

It was so delicious that I would have been happy to eat this without the mince component of the meal!

Using the office microwave – mushroom stir-fry

It’s freezing today, and the last thing I wanted to for lunch was a cold salad!

Having only convenience stores close to work also means that there’s not much to choose from on the low carb front, but this stir-fry attracted my attention:

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But with only a microwave in the office I wasn’t really sure if this would work.  However, it did, and it was surprisingly good!

I put half of the pack into a bowl (an ordinary cereal bowl), sprinkled it generously with olive oil, and then microwaved it on high for a minute.  After a minute I stirred it, and then added a good shake of light soy sauce, and then microwaved for another minute.

Lovely!  Half the pack is 4.9g carbs, plus whatever the soy sauce would have added.

Sausages with Roasted Vegetables

Here’s something that is my ‘go to’ meal for days when I haven’t got the energy to stand in the kitchen faffing about with pots and pans.

I use The Black Farmer sausages, which are my absolute favourite.  Great flavour, really good texture and – even better – very low in carbs.  A pack of 6 sausages is only 4g carbs in total.

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http://www.theblackfarmer.com/gluten_free_products/gluten_free_sausages/premium_pork_sausages

(I think you can buy these from most supermarkets – I buy mine from Sainsbury’s.)

This takes around 40 minutes to cook, so it’s not the quickest of meals, but once you’ve prepared all your veg, everything goes into one tin and just cooks itself without you having to stand over it in the kitchen.

The other great advantage is that you can use pretty much any veg that you might have to hand.  In this case, I used fennel, celery, shallots, and red and yellow peppers.

Although I made this quantity for three of us, there was veg left over – you could easily do this with two packs of sausages and little bit more veg to make enough for four.

Ingredients

1 pack of Black Farmer sausages
500g fennel
150g celery
100g yellow pepper
130g red pepper
135g echalion shallots
olive oil
salt and black pepper

Here’s what you do:

First, fry the sausages.  You’re not aiming to cook them through, just to brown them all over.

While they’re browning, prepare the veg:

1. top and tail the fennel a little, then slice lengthways into strips about 1.5cm wide (fennel is quite a tough vegetable, and so it needs to be thin enough tosoften and cook through properly)

2. wash the celery and then cut the stalks into lengths about 4-5cm long

3. de-seed the peppers and cut into quarters

4. peel the shallots and cut in half, lengthways

Put it all into an oven baking dish and mix together; season generously and give it a good drizzle with olive oil:

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Then tip in the sausages and mix into the vegetables.  Put the tray into the oven at around 200C/180C fan, and cook for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, stir everything around, scraping up any bits that are starting to stick to the bottom of the tray, and cook for another 20 minutes, till it’s nicely browned.

And that’s it!

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For the quantities given here, this totalled 28g carbs; so one portion was just a smidge over 9g carbs.

Cheese sauce – for my veggie friends!

I love cheese sauce. I love it on cauliflower especially, or on eggs mornay – a real 70s dish, and one my mum used to cook for me.

But for a low carber, it’s not a great option. Not only made with milk but also thickened with flour.

So here’s a version that is perfect for low carbing. High in fat but low in carbs, at a total of 4.5g for this quantity. And even better, it’s really easy to make.

There are just 3 ingredients:

300ml of double cream (a medium pot)
125g mature cheddar, grated (half a standard pack)
black pepper, to season

To make the sauce, simply heat the cream till it reaches boiling point, then add the cheese and stir together till it melts into the sauce, then season. It takes hardly any time at all.

For cauliflower cheese, pour the sauce over cooked cauliflower in an oven dish (this amount of sauce will be enough for a small cauliflower), and then bake in the oven for about 20 minutes, until the top is browned.

Or, as an alternative, griddle or fry some leeks – chopped into 3-4cm lengths – until they start to char/brown, then put them in a dish with the cheese sauce and bake until the top is browned.

Actually, you can use it on any veg you like. Or over hard-boiled eggs, if you fancy a trip back in time!