Stir-fried pork, with mixed vegetables and waterchestnuts

There are three of us living in this house.  One of whom is my younger son who comes and goes at mysterious hours. Working in retail he never knows what his hours are, and as he works in one of those Big 4 convenience stores, it’s not unusual for him to be at work until 11 pm.

And like many of his generation,  although better connected than I ever was, communication about where he is, what he’s doing and when he’ll be home is generally initiated by me.

All of which means that when I’m cooking I never know if I’m cooking for two or three. For a meal to be eaten immediately or something that will keep.  So quantities tend to be a bit of minefield.

In the event, this recipe made enough for three. Thankfully!

Stir-fried pork

stir-fried pork

Stir fries are another wonderfully flexible meal. You can use pretty much whatever meat or veg you have to hand. What’s important, though, is to maximise the flavour of whatever you’re cooking. Mainly this comes, I think, from marinading the meat that you’re using. I also like to use chilli of some sort (chilli features a lot in my food, because I love it!). This recipe uses the chilli oil that I wrote about in my last blog.

The carb count for this, with the veg I’d used,- came to just 33g in total, so just a little more than 10g per person.


The meat and its marinade:

1 pork fillet, big enough for 3, fat trimmed off and sliced into thin medallions (try and get them around 5mm)
2-4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped (or crushed in a garlic press)
1 tablespoon light soy sauce (use a good brand, like Kikkoman or Sanchi Shoyu)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
a chunk of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped (you want a piece about the size of an Oxo cube; mine weighed 13g)
roasted sesame oil
black pepper

Slice the meat and put it in a bowl or plastic box and add all the ingredients

Season generously with black pepper, stir so that it’s all well mixed, and leave to marinade for around 20 minutes. (You can leave it for longer if you have the time – but 20 minutes is a minimum to give you a decent flavour)

The stir-fry

65g echalion shallots, peeled and sliced thinly – I used 2 shallots for this weight
130g celery stalks, thinly sliced (about 3 or 4 stalks of celery)
2-4 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
140g savoy cabbage, sliced thinly (this was about a 1/3 of a cabbage)
140g bean sprouts
1 tin of water chestnuts, drained and halved (I used the Kingfisher brand, which gives a carb count of 4.3g for 100g, and the whole tin is 140g when drained – if you use another brand, check the carb counts don’t very too widely)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
A light, unflavoured oil for frying – sunflower or groundnut would be ideal
Salt and black pepper

And finally, my weird ingredient: 25g chilli oil with peanuts – this is not really an oil, more an oily paste, using lots of chilli flakes and peanuts:

The oil not only adds flavour, but also texture, from the dried flakes and peanuts

Here’s how to make it:

Heat a wok (or a large frying pan), add a generous sloosh of oil, and when it’s really hot, fry the celery and shallots, stirring all the time

Next, add the cabbage, garlic and water chestnuts, and continue to stir fry for another minute or so.

Then add the bean sprouts and cook briefly.

Season with some black pepper and a little bit of salt (not too much as soy sauce is salty)

When it’s softened and cooked to your liking, add the chilli oil and soy sauce and fry for a little longer to amalgamate everything

Put it all into a serving dish and keep it warm while you cook the meat


Stir-frying the pork

Put the wok back on the heat (no need to wash it) and make sure it’s hot before you add the meat

You don’t need to add any extra oil, as there is sesame oil in the marinade

When the wok is really hot, add the meat. Do this using a slotted spoon, so that you are not adding the marinade as well. The meat will steam rather than fry if it’s too wet in the wok

Stir fry the meat, stirring continuously, for no more than a couple of minutes. This is really important. It’s cut thin enough to cook through very quickly, and if you cook it for longer than this, it will be tough. It’s OK to eat pork fillet slightly pink, just in case you’re worried!

Just before you take it off the heat, add the remains of the marinade and stir it through, then add the meat to the vegetables, mix together, and serve immediately


Weird ingredients – chilli oil

I said I wouldn’t post recipes that contained weird ingredients, or things that you couldn’t get in an ordinary supermarket.

Apart from the shirataki noodles, I’m making one other exception: chilli oil.

I use this brand, that I bought from the Chinese supermarket:

Chilli oil

It’s very oily, with whole raw peanuts as well as flakes of dried chilli,  and it adds a lovely flavour (and texture) to dishes.  It’s also, not surprisingly, hot!  I love hot food, and think that most things – if not all things – can be improved by the addition of chilli in some shape or form.

I used it in a recipe for stir-fried pork with mixed vegetables and water chestnuts that I’ll be posting shortly (once I’ve worked out the carb count), so this is giving you advance notice!

An office lunch – using the microwave: Creamy Pesto Turkey

It’s hard sorting out lunch at work.

If I’m really organised, I take stuff in that’s leftover from the night before, but that’s not always possible.

Near us in the office we have a Sainsbury’s Local and a Pret a Manger.  I like Pret as much as the next man, but their range of low carb options is pretty limited and hasn’t changed much over the last few months – and they’re not the cheapest option if you’re buying from there everyday.

Sainsbury’s at least has a wider selection of food, but frankly, once you’ve ignored all the biscuits, cakes, chocolate and sandwiches there really isn’t much left for a low carber.  All the available ready meals and most of their pre-prepared salads contain carbs in one form or another.  And that’s before you have to discard all the low fat options as well!

There is always the wherewithal to put together an interesting salad, as they have a reasonable range of fresh veg, cooked meats and fish, and cheese, but I don’t always fancy salad.  Especially not when it’s cold.  But cooking at work is limited, as there’s only a microwave.

So I’ve developed a basic repertoire of things I can cook in the microwave.  Today was turkey in a creamy pesto sauce, which I ate with some salad and mange tout.  No photos, as I was too hungry and wolfed it down before I even thought about that!

Here’s what I used:

2 turkey breast steaks (packs of four are currently on offer!), which I sliced up roughly
About a half an ounce of butter
A tablespoon of full fat cream cheese
A large teaspoon of green pesto
salt and black pepper

And this is what I did:

Put the butter in a bowl and heat on high for 10-20 seconds until it’s melted

Add the sliced turkey, season and stir; cook on high for 1 minute

Add the cream cheese and pesto, then cover the bowl with a plate and cook for another 2 minutes on high

Let it sit for a while, as this allows the meat to relax, and makes it more tender

To cook the mange tout:

Rinse them under cold running water, drain, and then put into a separate bowl; season

Cook on high for no more than a minute

This makes quite a lot of lovely creamy sauce, so it would also work well with vegetables rather than salad.  But it was very satisfying – plenty of fat, protein-rich and low in carbs.  What’s not to like?!

Roasted Meatballs

I love making meatballs – it’s easy and they’re really flexible.  You can add pretty much whatever you want into them.  But what you don’t have to add is any kind of filler, like breadcrumbs, to bind them.

When I make them, I tend to just use what I have to hand, and I don’t weigh any ingredients – but for the purposes of this blog, I have done that today, to give you an idea of how many (or rather, how few!) carbs there can be in meatballs.  You’ll need a food processor for this recipe, unless you’re a particular fan of chopping.

Using the ingredients and weights below, I made 34 meatballs.  It’s a decent serving for four people:

weighing_shallots500 minced beef (go for the highest fat content you can find)
80g smoked lardons (or smoked bacon)
220g echalion shallots (this was the weight of 5 shallots, when peeled)
32g green chilli (this was a very large green chilli – and you can leave this out if you wish!)
red_pepper135g red pepper (this was the weight of one medium pepper, with the core/seeds removed)
4 cloves garlic
Seasoning – salt, black pepper and dried oregano
Olive oil for roasting

Here’s how to make them:

Peel the shallots and garlic cloves and put them into the food processor bowl

Cut the pepper into chunks, along with the chilli and add these too

minceProcess them till it’s all finely chopped – you will need to scrape it down the sides of the bowl once or twice, to make sure everything is evenly processed

When it’s finely chopped, add the lardons and mince, and season well with salt, pepper and dried oregano.  Process till it’s all well combined with the vegetables.  You’ll end up with what looks like pink slurry.  Don’t be put off by this!

shaped_meatballsTip the mixture on to a chopping board, and form into balls the size of a large walnut.

Put them into a roasting tin and then drizzle over some olive oil.

Roast in a hot oven for 20-25 minutes, shaking them after 10 minutes, so that they don’t stick to the tray.  While they’re cooking, they will exude a fair amount of liquid – they’re cooked when all the liquid has gone.


The total carb count for this is a mere 20g.  If you left the chilli out, it would total 17g.

So how do you serve them?  I like them with lots of Parmesan cheese on top, and I serve them with salad, or shirataki noodles.  If I’m using noodles, it’s probably because the rest of the family is having spaghetti.  And I serve this with a tomato sauce.

Tomato sauce is simple – fry 100g chopped shallots in a generous slug of olive oil till softened, and add a tin of tomatoes.  Season with salt and black pepper.  Add any dried or fresh herbs that you like.  You can add garlic if you want to – but remember there’s a fair amount of garlic in the meatballs.  Bring to the boil and then simmer gently for about 10 minutes.  The total carb count for this will vary according to the brand of tomatoes that you use.  I use Sainsbury’s Basics Chopped tomatoes, the ones in a carton (400g) as these are the lowest carb ones that I’ve found.  On this basis, the sauce will come to a total of 15.3g.

So – roasted meatballs and tomato sauce for four people comes in at 35.3g carbs – under 9g per person.


The aim of this blog

There are a million and one blogs about low carbing.  Probably.

However, many of them are American sites, so they use cup measurements, which I just can’t get on with.

Or, they use weird ingredients that mean you have to go to some health food shop, or buy some weird protein powder or thickening agent.

My plan with this blog is to post recipes based on everyday ingredients, that you can buy in any supermarket.  The only exception I will make here is to include recipes using Shirataki noodles.  These are a brilliant noodle substitute and a passable pasta substitution in extremis.  They’re Japanese, and made from the konjac yam (nothing to do with the yams we may have in our supermarkets!)  If you have an Asian supermarket near you, you may be able to find them there.

Here’s a piece from Wikipaedia about them:

If you don’t have an Asian supermarket close by, you can also buy them on Amazon:

They’re fantastic in noodle soups, and as I’ve just come back from a (work) trip to Vietnam, I shall be experimenting to see if I can make a passable Pho with them.

But I promise this is the only ‘weird’ ingredient I will be using.

Tomorrow’s recipe will be meatballs in tomato sauce.  So tune in then!

Living a Low Carb Life

It can be difficult switching from the way we’re encouraged to eat towards a low or lower carb diet.

We’re encouraged to base our diet on carbohydrates, and fat (of any kind) is vilified.  Eating on the go is even more difficult – just have a look at what’s available on any high street or in any railway station – carbs, carbs and more carbs!

So when people decide to follow a low carb diet, it can be difficult.

It can be difficult if you’re reliant on pre-prepared foods or ready meals, because most of these are also based around carbs.

It can be difficult if you don’t want to eat differently from the rest of your family.

And there’s often a perception that it can be expensive.  After all, isn’t the Atkins diet all about living off steak, cream and bacon?*

So my blog aims to help show that it doesn’t have to be difficult.  Nor does it have to be expensive.  Whilst I may not post daily, the idea is to blog my meals and food, at home, on the go and eating out, so show how it’s possible to make your diet a lower carb one.

* No it isn’t.  But hey, where’s the newsworthy story in reporting that?!

How to make low carbing easy and normal, for all the family