Bats in the Belfry – a Plague of Pipistrelles…

guestwick church

Part of my journey to explore all that a ketogenic-diet has to offer, is a journey of another kind… a journey on foot. Come hell or high weather, I’ve committed to a daily dawn-walk.

This is just over a mile in length and aims to put a little more movement back into what was becoming an increasingly sedentary life.

Looking out over the fields each morning, I see four churches in the distance. The first and second have already been explored in this blog. Now it’s time to meet the third, complete with its inhabitants…

The above depicts a beautiful, rambling old medieval church, typical of so many you see in this area and the wider English countryside. The pace of life doesn’t touch this place. It’s timeless in every way. But as the evening-time dusk descends, an entirely different picture begins to emerge…

From out the tower begins to leech a dark stain, which fills the sky like smog. Not smoke, but a vast army of bats emerging to feed after their long day’s cloistration.

The sky becomes electric with the sound of sonic chatter, just too high to be audible; but still causing resonance within the ear. They dive, swoop and bomb through the sky, swerving their way round invisible barriers & descending on prey too small for the eye to make out in the half-light. It’s a strange, majestic dance, to which none but they know the steps.

The interior of the church bears constant testimony to their presence. The pews and altar are all covered in a thick white plastic, to shield against the corrosive nature of their droppings! A smell of musk is almost overpowering and the stone floor is grainy underfoot.

The bats can’t be removed as they’re a protected species. So man and winged-mammal must share this space which our neglect allowed to fall vacant.

They’re certainly making better use of it than we are. One hour-long service a month is all we can muster. And when the last few elderly inhabitants of the village pass on, I suspect even that will stop!

I say ‘leave them to it’. Something’s got to use the place.

An englishman’s home is his castle; an english-bat’s base is its belfry! And all things considered; they couldn’t have picked a finer one!

Thanks for reading,

Adam.

One man’s struggle for survival in… “The Quest for Breakfast!” Coming soon to a blog near you…

Sometimes the morning walks serve a greater purpose than just exercise & thought-time alone… Sometimes, they’re a mission & a fight for sheer survival…!

All that stands between breakfast and our hungry man-in-wellies, is a treacherous & death-defying landscape of unknown perils…

To reach the eggs, which lie in a box at a distant farm over the fields…

Will he make it through the savage and terrifying jungle….????

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Will the bridge of doom prove his undoing …?

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Will ‘the plank’ herald his demise, sending him to a cold & watery grave…?

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Or does a more gruesome, foul and tortuous fate await him in the jaws of THE HUNGRY, RAVENING MONSTER!!??

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Dare he hope win his one true prize??? That elusive and highly coveted ‘dozen of breakfast eggs’?????

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Yes he did dare. They cost him one pound sixty pence and were very nice thank you.

With script-writing skills like this, it’s amazing I haven’t been snapped up by a film-studio years ago….! The invitation must have got lost in the post!

Thanks for reading,

Adam.

Chicken in a Creamy White Wine, Tarragon-Sauce with Roasted Courgette-Gratin – A timeless classic that’s quick, easy & full of flavour. A foolproof, low-carb masterpiece!

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In our search for the ‘interesting & different’, we sometimes overlook the classics. The joy of this dish is that it’s so incredibly straightforward, yet tastes as if you’d been slaving for hours! Use any cut of chicken you like, but chicken breasts are by far the quickest. On a week-night, that can be a real blessing!

The addition of double-cream makes the sauce velvety smooth; so professional that people will think you’ve graduated from the Cordon Bleu school of French cookery! No carbs, no guilt. Just pleasure.

In a thick-based sauté-pan, melt a little butter then add your chicken. Seal on both sides until it’s golden brown and caramelised. I say the following again and again… do not poke at it or move the food around in the pan until it’s ready to be turned. No-one likes to be mothered and the same goes for your dinner! Don’t fuss at it. If you attempt to move it too early, you risk ‘tearing’ the meat’s surface, and you’ll never develop the caramelised, seared-on crust that de-glazes from the bottom of the pan & adds richness and depth to the sauce. Touch it gently with your finger; if it comes away from the pan’s surface with no resistance, then it’s ready to be turned. If it stays put, then the surface hasn’t sufficiently sealed / caramelised & it needs to cook a little while longer. Equally, never ‘crowd’ the meat in the pan. If it’s too close together, you lower the temperature in the pan and the food starts to steam not sauté. Trust me and try it; the results will speak for themselves!

Lecture over (sorry). Add sliced onions and some finely-chopped / crushed garlic a minute or so later. Cook on a medium heat, ensuring that the onions don’t brown; rather go soft and translucent. Then crank up the temperature and de-glaze the pan with a little white-wine to release the flavour. I always love the big, heavy ‘sigh’ it gives, as the liquid comes into contact with the hot metal and evaporates. Italians call this ‘il sospiro’, literally ‘the sigh’; it’s the perfect word for it, and the sign that you can finally relax after a long day…!

Pour in chicken stock (or water and stock cubes) until the contents are waist-deep in liquid. Add chopped tarragon and season. Leave to cook on a low heat until the sauce has reduced to half its volume. You can do this on the hob, or in the oven.

Meanwhile, roughly slice your courgettes. Throw on some chopped garlic and mix in a roasting-dish with a thick coating of olive-oil. Season and roast for half an hour until the courgettes are soft and unctuously delicious. Grate on a good whack of strongly-flavoured hard-cheese (I used cheddar), then place until the grill until golden brown.

Whilst this is browning, stir a generous amount of double-cream into the chicken. Cook on the hob for a minute or so, stirring occasionally until it thickens. Serve up the chicken & gratin side-by-side, piling the onions and sauce all over the dish in ‘generous, luxurious lashings’. Finish with a final flourish of chopped herbs and dig in! There’ll not be an ounce left on the plate!

Thanks for reading and bon ap!

Adam.

Prawn, Pepper, Parmesan & Celeriac Salad, with Fresh Basil, Olives & Chilli – Refreshingly different, diabetic-friendly, low-carb & delicious!

prawn 2

Few people realise that celeriac can be eaten raw. In many ways, that’s the nicest way to prepare it. Salads based solely on green leaves can sometimes feel a little anaemic. Micro-thin slices of this chewy root vegetable give a salad that all important ‘fill-factor’. This is a rarity for low-carb dishes, so I recommend you try it!

Because the celeriac is eaten raw (and cold), what little carbohydrate there is, is so slow release that diabetics can tuck in without fear of glucose-spikes or any impact to blood-sugar. But above all things; it’s incredibly delicious so give it a go! Perfect as a starter or light lunch, it’s always nice to do something that little bit different; and this dish is certainly that.

Peel your celeriac (the big ugly) then shave into micro-thin slices. You can either do this with a food-processor, mandolin-slicer, or simply just continue with the vegetable-peeler (my preferred option as less washing-up!). Put this into a mixing-bowl and glug on some good quality extra-virgin olive-oil, sufficient to amply coat. Season with rock salt and coarse-ground black pepper, then shave on a liberal quantity of parmesan. Finely chop some fresh basil and add this. Stir and leave to develop in flavour for a least half an hour.

Meanwhile, slice your peppers, olives & chilli, and de-shell your prawns. If you’re not a chilli-fan, feel free to leave it out. You could equally substitute the prawns for any fish, chicken or smoked ham.

Form a bed of lettuce in the bottom of your salad bowl, pile on your celeriac-mix, then scatter your peppers, olives, chilli and prawns over the top. Finish with a final glug of olive-oil and torn basil-leaves. Delectable!

Thanks for reading and bon ap!

Adam.

What are Net Carbs? The role of fibre in a low-carb / ketogenic diet..

Fibre is a wonderful thing! Not only does it ensure that the food we eat ‘keeps moving’ through the digestive-system; it can actually help lower cholesterol and aids the prevention of a whole host of nasties… (NHS states heart disease, diabetes, some cancers &tc).

Whilst I can’t comment on the ‘preventative’ health-qualities of fibre; I can tell you a little bit about it, and why it’s so important to the ketogenic-dieter or diabetic.

People are often surprised to learn that fibre is actually a form of carbohydrate (alarms bells ring for all low-carb readers everywhere!!!). Having said this; it comprises the parts of plants which we cannot digest and is therefore not absorbed by the body. As such; it’s not a nutrient and contains no calories or vitamins.

Examples of indigestible plant-fibres include cellulose (the plant’s cell-walls), lignin (derived from the Latin word for wood & the thing which makes vegetables crunchy); and suberin (a waxy, rubbery material which is water-resistant, therefore acting as a barrier to moisture-loss in roots, bark &tc). Such fibres are not absorbed in the small intestine and pass straight through to the large intestine intact.

Because fibre is ‘rough’ and combines with other foodstuffs to ‘shift’ them through the digestive-tracts; it contributes to feelings of ‘fullness’/ satiety. This is a major advantage to both dieters and weight-stable people alike! The fuller you feel, the less you’ll eat!

Fibre comes in two forms:

  • Soluble fibre
  • Insoluble fibre

So what’s the difference?

Soluble fibre does as the name suggests: it attracts water and dissolves into a form of ‘gel’ in the gut. This gel helps to slow-down the digestion of other foods, including (yes!) carbohydrate and sugar. This is particularly important for diabetics. Why?  The slower the rate of carbohydrate-absorption in your system, the more stable your blood-sugars, and the lower the risk of glucose-spikes in the blood-stream.

Stable blood-sugars = better insulin management = improved health!

Examples of soluble fibres include fruits, legumes, oats (all forms of fruit & vegetables to varying extents).

Insoluble fibre is equally aptly named. It’s made of the more structural parts of plant (the lignins &tc). As a result, it also attracts water, but instead of forming a gel; it ‘puffs up’ & adds bulk/softness to other less fibrous foods. In-so-doing, it regulates the passage of foodstuffs through the intestines, thereby promoting digestive health in general.

Examples of insoluble fibres include bran, beans, green leafy vegetables, nuts & seeds.

So we know what it is and what it does. But why is fibre of special importance to a low-carb diet?

Firstly, low carb diets often consume a higher proportion of meat & dairy products than other regimes. These require good levels of fibre to secure their transit through the digestive-system

Secondly (and of supreme interest!) – because dietary-fibre is a carbohydrate which comprises the indigestible parts of edible plants; fibre should be subtracted from the total carbohydrate-content of foods, because we cannot digest it!

Yes – we minus fibre from carbohydrate whenever we calculate the carb-value of what we’re eating. This reduced figure is termed the ‘Net Carbs’ (i.e. the true nutrient-value of the carbohydrate we’re consuming; not the parts which pass straight through intact).

For many foods, this will render what seems like a high carb-value into something that’s both acceptable, and can be eaten freely on a ketogenic-diet.

Example: Carbohydrate 10g minus fibre 8g = net carbs 2g.

Sugar-alcohols should also be subtracted, but these are often hard to distinguish on UK food packaging, so are omitted from this post.

Armed with this quick and easy ‘carb-counting-tool’; shopping, cooking & ‘living’ a low-carb diet all become instantly easier and more accessible!

I hope this helps and thanks for reading,

Adam.

‘Old Ketonians’ – the pagan past of this ancient state!…

green man

As you’ll have learnt from yesterday’s post ‘Ketosis – an ancient & historic state‘; I can see four churches on my daily ramble to health and well-being.

The second of these carries a reminder of this land’s pre-Christian origins: The Green Man, Lord of the Greenwood.

Early Medieval architecture in England will often feature this ‘foliate-face’, in the form of gargoyles, bosses or corbel-carvings such as this. The exact meaning of this iconography has been lost to time; but it’s believed to date back to pagan times, when forest folklore was strong and the seasons were ruled by two opposing warlords; the Holly King & the Oak King.

Christianity was slow to catch on in a country which has always been steeped in druid culture. Add to this the invasions of pagan Romans & Vikings; and it becomes easy to understand why ancient folklore retained its resonance until well into the late-medieval period.

This particular Green Man is a much loved local figure. He stands at the entrance to the church, where generations of hands have touched him for luck!

We’re at that time of year where the leaves have all but fallen from the trees, and the holly will soon bear fruit. In light of this, maybe I’ll drop by and give the Green Man a friendly pat. Anything to ward off the dark on these gloomy mornings is definitely worth a try!

Thanks for reading,

Adam.

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Rich, Aromatic ‘Quorn’ Tikka Masala with Cauliflower & Scallion Mash. Low-Carb, Ketogenic & Vegetarian! What more do you need?

curry

It’s not often than low-carb & vegetarian go hand in hand. I thought I’d buck that trend with this recipe, and show that it’s not all about red-meat and dairy! This recipe has always been one of my favourites. I love Quorn, and these ‘chicken-style’ pieces are a brilliant freezer staple!

You have to read the packets carefully, as some Quorn products can be high in carbs due to the ‘shaping process’ (it needs a bit of starchy glue to stay together).  These chicken-style pieces are only 1g total carbs per 100g; and that doesn’t include the fibre, which is sky-high!

Curry always needs something ‘bulky’ to spread the intensity and mop up the sauce. Rice or nann have been evicted from the keto-kitchen; so in their place we have cauliflower & scallion mash. It’s warm in flavour and provides that all important ‘fill-factor’!

This recipe is perfect for diabetics, as well as low-carbers! You can naturally substitute the Quorn for meat, and make the dish to any intensity your heart desires (my heart desired scotch-bonnet chillies!).

Chop chilli and garlic, then sauté in a little oil. Add thinly sliced onion and continue to cook on a medium heat for about a minute. Roughly chop green and yellow peppers, plus any other carb-friendly vegetables which take your fancy (comprehensive keto-friendly list available on a separate post). Carry on cooking the mix for a further minute, to ensure that the contents are thoroughly heated through.

At this point, add your spice powder. This can be home-made or bought-in; depending on your preference. A good blend of cumin, coriander, turmeric, ginger, paprika, cardamom & fenugreek is always my mix of choice. It’s so easy to do; plus you can adjust the mix however you like (I’m a huge fan of cumin, so always err heavily on that).

Give the pan a good stir to mix in the powder, and cook for a minute more. Strain a can of tomatoes and add the flesh to the mix, followed by your frozen Quorn and sufficient water to ‘just about cover’ the contents. Crumble in a couple of stock-cubes and leave to reduce the sauce to half is volume. If you have any quick-cook vegetables which you wish to retain their crunch (e.g. mange tout), add them now.

Meanwhile, make the cauliflower & scallion mash. This couldn’t be easier. Chop the cauliflower into large chunks and boil until soft. Add a good whack of butter, cream and chopped spring-onions. Mash with a potato-masher (or a cheating blender); season thoroughly and fine-tune to taste.

Lastly, stir a little natural full-fat yoghurt, butter and double-cream into the curry, plus a little sweetener. The hotter the chillies you use; the greater the requirement for sweetness. The dairy additions have a ‘cooling effect’ plus add richness.

Serve alongside the mash, and garnish with chopped almonds and plenty of chopped coriander. This is one of those dishes where you can’t help but have seconds. And one of the great joys of a ketogenic diet, is that you can do this without the slightest pang of guilt! Enjoy!

With thanks for reading and bon ap!

Adam.

Ketosis – an ancient & historic state! The land of echoing churches & medieval ruins… At least on my walks!

hindol church

One of the great joys of a country walk, is the opportunity it affords to look up and reflect on the world around one… One of my great loves is history, and the Norfolk countryside is certainly steeped in that!

There are four churches I can see on my mile-long morning rambles. This is the first!

The tower collapsed in 1892. They had made the louvre windows too big to support the weight of the tower and the bells. One can only imagine the ground-shaking crash as the whole thing came tumbling down. Local history states that it was a perfectly calm, quiet and still morning, without even the smallest hint of a breeze.

Nowadays it stands eerily alone, clad in ivy and rambling roses. This photo was taken in late summer, when the wealth of foliage makes it look even more overgrown and ‘gothic’.

Much like the creepy derelict house; this is most certainly a place to take a walk in daylight! There’s no way I’d venture here in the dark. Graveyards are spooky enough at the best of times… Ruined, deserted ones are even worse!

Thanks for reading and enjoy the day!

Adam

Creamy, Mild, Cauliflower, Celery & Coconut Korma with Griddled Local Scallops & Crevettes. Equally good with chicken, lamb or pork. Low carb doesn’t get much better than this!

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This dish was previously part of another post: a ‘starter & main course combo’. I was asked if I could separate the two, to make it easier to search the recipes. This seems like a very good idea, so thank you for the suggestion!

The great thing about this dish, is not just that it’s low carb; the korma can very much stand on it’s own as a main course, or be accompanied by any number of other things. If you’re not a huge fan of seafood; don’t let this stop you giving this a go; you can equally use chicken, pork or lamb to equally stunning effect! All low carb, all diabetic-friendly & delicious!

So start with the korma. Peel and slice an onion, which you then sautee in butter or oil (to your preference). If butter, control the heat so that the butter doesn’ brown. Add chopped garlic and chilli, volume dependent on how strong you like things.

Soften these until the onions are translucent. Then add spices (curry powder if easier). I used cumin, ground coriander, a pinch of ginger, turmeric & fenugreek.

Whilst these are filling the kitchen with a heady aroma, chop your cauliflower and throw into the pan. Do the same with your celery. Pour on a centimetre depth of water and season. Whilst the water is reducing, open a can of coconut milk (make sure it’s full fat) and add half of it to the pan. I then crumbled in a couple of chicken stock-cubes, for ‘warmth’; but these are not essential.

Leave the pan on a low heat for 10 minutes or so, until the coconut milk starts to thicken (see below). Add a tablespoon of ground almonds for texture and body, then stir and give it a good taste.

Depending on how much chilli you’ve put in, the dish will probably need a little sweetening. Xylitol is very much the low-carb, diabetic-friendly sweetener of choice. It’s 100% natural, doesn’t lose its sweetness in cooking (unlike tabletop sweetener) and behaves to all intents and purposes like granulated sugar. I couldn’t praise it enough! Finish off with a handful of chopped herbs (coriander or basil are just perfect).

Whilst the korma is finishing, have your scallops and crevettes marinating in a little olive oil. You can add some garlic to this, if you like.

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Place your griddle pan onto the heat and wait until it’s piping hot. First add the prawns and cook for a couple on minutes on one side. Then turn them over and add the scallops. These only take a minute on each side, so the prawns should be cooked to perfection at just the same time as the scallops.

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A squeeze of lemon-juice and these are ready to be piled next to your korma and demolished! Delicious and nutritious in every way!

Thanks for reading & bon ap!

Adam.

Chocolate-Orange Mousse with Almond Stars – incredibly quick & easy! A diabetic, low-carb pudding that tastes anything but!

pudding

For diabetics and ‘low-carbers’ alike; one of the things you miss most is that baked, ‘cakey’ texture. Although cooked like biscuits; these almond stars have the mouth-feel of dense cake. You can obviously make this dish without them, but the variation in texture provides a welcome change, and rolling out dough is such a rare treat nowadays as to be seized by the horns at every opportunity!

Start with the biscuits. Cream 2oz unsalted butter with 2oz Xylitol. This is the only sweetener I have found which is 100% natural, doesn’t lose its sweetness through cooking & behaves exactly like sugar in cakes. It’s granulated, so creams exactly the way a traditional caster sugar would. I can’t praise it enough!

Please note – always use your hands for making cakes / biscuits. The warmth of your hands makes the butter so much more workable and it’s the only way to truly ‘feel’ for lumps. Your hands are nature’s whisk. Use them!

Once butter & sugar are light and fluffy, mix in 4oz ground almonds. Roll dough out quickly to prevent it sticking to the roller. Cut into whatever shapes you like and bake for 20 mins in a moderate oven until the surface starts to go golden. At this point, they’ll still be very soft to the touch, but will harden up as they cool.

For the mousse, add to a mixing-bowl half volume of mascapone to double-cream. Judge all volumes by eye as to ‘how much mixture you wish to end up with’. Pour a little hot water onto your sweetener to prevent it being grainy, then add to the mix. Sieve in a good tablespoon of cocoa powder & a splash of orange-oil or essence. Whisk up until thick and heavy, checking finally for sweetness & flavour. Make any adjustments necessary e.g. more orange, sweetener or cocoa to preference.

Spoon into bowls and top with a little whipped cream and toasted almonds. Cool in the fridge until your biscuits are room-temperature; then dig in!

Thanks for reading and bon ap!

Adam.

Cajun-Spiced Pork-Belly with Devilled Kale & Beansprouts. Low-carb, minimum effort; maximum reward!

pork

A good Cajun spice-mix is a store-cupboard essential! Shop-ones do the job, but there is nothing like making your own! Feel free to use either for this recipe. I include a quick note below on how to do the mix, should you wish to try it yourself.

I never measure the spices (I’m not that kinda guy!) but it always turns out well. I just judge the volumes as roughly equal by eye. If you like one thing more than the other, adjust accordingly. It’s the small variation in taste each time that makes it a joy to make, and every batch different.

Spice mix: onion-powder, garlic-powder, smoked-paprika, black pepper, dried oregano, dried chilli-flakes, dried thyme, cayenne pepper, salt. Dry-roast in a pan on the hob for 30 seconds to one minute. Grind up to a powder in a coffee-grinder or pestle and mortar if you’re a purist!

Dust the pork-belly slices liberally with your spice-powder and rub it in. Add a little salt to the pork to encourage it to go crisp. Place the pork on a baking-tray and roast in a medium oven for 40 mins to an hour, until the fat has chiefly contracted, and the meat is brown and caramelised all over.

Finely chop garlic, chilli & coriander. Fry briefly in a large pan with a lid. Wash and slice your kale, then add it to the pan. Stir in a stock-cube (veg or chicken) then place the lid back on and cook for a couple of minutes until the kale starts to soften. At this point, throw in your beansprouts, some chopped spring-onion and some finely sliced yellow pepper for colour. Cook for a further 1-2 minutes with the lid on. Adjust seasoning if required then serve up next to the pork, garnished with flaked almonds and more chopped coriander.

Perfect for diabetics and those on a low-carb diet. If your ketogenic tendencies err on the side of ‘paleo’, you could even eat this with your fingers! Either way; enjoy the dish and thank you for reading.

Bon ap!

Adam.

Thai-Style Smoked Cod with Lemon-grass, Coconut Milk & Coriander. A low-carb show-stopper that’s hard to follow!

fish

What this lacks in carbs, it certainly makes up for in taste! When it comes to Thai food, the hotter the better in my book; but you can naturally vary the level of chilli to your own taste.

Smoked fish can carry a lot of flavour; so to me, it works far better in oriental dishes than the unsmoked kind. Coconut & coriander go perfectly together. Complement the lot with a good squeeze of lime, to give it that all important ‘zing’!

Finely chop chilli, garlic, lemon-grass and coriander-stalk with a sharp knife (or blitz in a processor if it’s easier). Fry the mixture in hot oil for a minute, then pour in coconut milk, season and stir. Half a can for two people, a whole can for four. Depending how thick the coconut-milk is that you’re using, you may need to add some water. You want the texture to be like tomato-soup at this stage; not a thin broth! Add a stock cube for warmth of flavour (I always use chicken, even with fish); then reduce in the pan until you have the texture of thick pouring-cream.

Place the fish in a baking-tray with high-sides, then pour on your coconut mixture. Bake in the oven for 20 mins until the fish is cooked through. Serve and garnish with chopped coriander, micro-thin slices of chilli and fresh lime.

This dish can also be done as either starter or main course. Steamed Chinese cabbage with toasted almonds would bulk it up and complement the flavour.

Thanks for reading and bon ap!

Adam.

Keto-NO-NOs; Keto-GO-GOs… Vegetables

‘Ketogenic Shopping’ is fairly straightforward.

At the start however, it can help to have a list of the good things to buy (keto-GO-GOs) and the things which are higher in carbs, thereby posing risks to ketosis (keto-NO-NOs)!

For specific foodstuffs, the New Atkins Carb Counter is a brilliant tool! It calculates the ‘net carbs’ of any food for you; which can often take away the guesswork! (More on ‘net carbs’ in a later post…)

In this blog, I aim to provide a quick reference-guide as to what to put into your shopping-basket; starting this week with vegetables.

As the guide is ‘quick reference’, it doesn’t detail the exact carb-count per item; rather groups them into three classifications:

  • Keto-GO-GO-GO: 2g or less
  • Keto-GO-GO: 5g or less
  • Keto-GO: 8g or less
  • Keto-NO-NO: 8g or more!

The below details ‘total carbs’ (not net). The reason for this? Net carbs will always be a lower figure. If you start with the higher of the two, you’ll never go wrong!

Keto-GO-GO-GO! – under 2g total carbs (not net) per 100g:

Bamboo Shoots

Broccoli (Green & Purple)

Cabbage (Green, Spring, Chinese not Red!)

Celery

Courgette

Kale

Cucumber

Chicory

Fennel

Lettuce (Romaine, Cos, Iceberg & other ‘Leafy Greens’)

Marrow

Radishes

Spinach

Watercress

Keto-GO-GO! – under 5g total carbs (not net) per 100g:

Artichoke (Globe – Boiled or Tinned)

Aubergine

Asparagus (Boiled & Canned)

Avacado

Beansprouts

Beetroot (Raw, not Pickled or Cooked)

Brussels Sprouts

Cabbage (Red, Savoy, White)

Chard

Green Beans

Green Peppers (Capsicum)

Cauliflower

Celeriac (Americans call Celery-Root)

Baby Sweetcorn (not Boiled or Tinned)

Endive

Kohlrabi

Leeks

Mushrooms

Okra

Olives

Peas

Pumpkin (Raw)

Tomatoes (Tinned, Cherry & Salad)

Turnips

Keto-GO! – under 8g total carbs (not net) per 100g:

Beetroot (Pickled)

Red Pepper (Capsicum)

Carrots (Boiled & Raw)

Onions

Butternut Squash

Water-Chestnuts (Tinned)

Keto-NO-NOs – over 8g total carbs (not net) per 100g. Best avoided on a ketogenic diet!:

Jerusalem Artichoke

Beetroot (Boiled)

Cassava

Sweetcorn (Tinned or Boiled, not Baby)

Potatoes (All)

Parsnip

Sweet Potato

Yam

If you look at the GO-GO sections, you’ll notice that anything green will pretty much be fine to eat!

How much of these should you eat?

GO-GO-GO: the name says it all! As much as you like!

GO-GO: a healthy portion-size (picture a handful), but don’t overdo it!

GO: be a little sparing. A small handful, especially when you’re trying to lose weight.

NO-NO: need I say more?

I hope this helps and thanks for reading,

Adam.

The slow onset of diabetes…

Finding out that Nicholas James was diabetic was a huge shock! It took us totally by surprise.We’d never dreamt it happened to people ‘our age’ and had always assumed it was a ‘lifestyle’ thing.

In short, we knew nothing about it! Summer 2013 saw the start of a long and unwelcome learning curve.

But enough from me… NJ was the one experienced it; far better to let him tell it in his own words!

I’m 31 now, and I have been diabetic for only one year, which surprises many people, not least the nurses in the endocrinology department. It’s uncommon but certainly not unheard of for a person to become a Type 1 diabetic after childhood, despite the condition also being known as ‘Juvenile Onset Diabetes’, as the average age for acquisition is 14. It remains a mystery to this day why I got it, or took so long to get it – it certainly doesn’t run in my family. After much thought and pointless deliberation I can only assume that, and I think Adam would vouch for this, I just took a very long time to grow up.

My story begins in August 2013, a couple of weeks into my school summer holiday. As a teacher who had just finished a very busy Summer Term, I wasn’t surprised to be feeling rather tired and lethargic, it’s often the case that the ‘full burn’ of a hectic job only catches up with you when you finally stop for a break. However in addition to this, I had a creeping thirst that slowly, over the course of a couple of weeks, became unquenchable despite drinking pints of water at a time. Again, it was the summer, and a particularly hot one at that, so I just put it down to the heat and the extra exercise I was attempting to fit into my day.

I say ‘attempting’, because I couldn’t believe how hard it had become to do just a basic run. My usual routine of running down to the end of the drive and round the village (a route of about 2 miles) had become a laborious and exhausting trial. I remember one day, just half way to the village, I had to stop and sit amongst the cow parsley on the verge. I was sweating profusely, dizzy, shaking and my heart beat was racing. It felt like I had quite simply run out of all energy. Fortunately a neighbour happened to be driving past and upon seeing me, stopped and said through her open window, “Christ Nick, you look like death.”

Again, I ignored the signs, and put it down to tiredness and heat. She offered to drive me home, but I insisted I would walk back, even though my calf and thigh muscles were now beginning to ache and cramp.

Another reason I was tired was because I was getting up at least twice a night to go for a wee, which interrupted my good night’s sleep. I had no explanation for this, maybe it was the heat, maybe it was the amount I was drinking because of the heat, maybe it was because I was soon to turn 30 and midnight visits to the bathroom were, in my mind, something that just happens when you get over that hill!!!

The final straw happened when I went to visit my sister down in Buckinghamshire a week later. She hadn’t seen me for a couple of months and during our initial hug she put her arms around me and jokingly said “God Nick, where have you gone?”  Weighing myself in her bathroom, I had indeed shrunk down to just under 11 stone from my regular 12.5. I had been aware of some weight loss, but my excuse this time? I put it down to the extra healthy summer diet I was on working particularly well.

My sister wasn’t convinced. Especially when I told her about the other strange things I’d been experiencing. Upon her insistence, I booked an appointment with my GP the following week, who took a urine and blood test. The results confused me a little. A little stick she dipped in my urine turned dark purple and my blood came back with a score of 31…both of which meant nothing to me. She explained, “The purple colour shows that there are a lot of ketones in your urine, a sign that you are burning your own fat for fuel because your body can’t make energy from the food you’re eating, as a result your blood is full of glucose, unable to go anywhere. A normal level is should be about 6. You are diabetic.”

I was stunned. “So, I’ve got Type 2, I need to eat different food to make me better?”

“No. I’m afraid it’s not that simple. You have Type 1, which means…” She paused, “Brace yourself. The next few months are going to be a bit of a rollercoaster, your life is going to be very different.”

I sat in shock thinking about all the things she was hinting at. Daily injections, sugar crashes, blood testing. No more cake and biscuits.

What followed was a bizarre week in hospital being treated for ketoacidosis. It turns out that it wasn’t just my fat that had been depleted, but in an urgent attempt to survive, my body had started breaking down my major organs. I was more or less eating myself, and within another week or two, I’d have been in a coma and possibly dead.

I have gone on to learn a lot about diabetes over the last year, but no lesson has been as important as the first: don’t ignore the symptoms. The strange thing is, I remember feeling perfectly well at the time of that first visit to my GP, and I was worried I’d be wasting her time. When she said I’d have to go to hospital, I said I could drive myself, but she shook her head. “Not in your condition.”

That’s when the gravity struck me.

It was a difficult adjustment but he’s come on in leaps and bounds! We’re all incredibly proud of him and keen to see what a ketogenic diet can offer for the future!

More from Nick when he’s finished the washing-up…!

Thanks for reading,

Adam.

Sage-Roasted Chicken with Creamy Forestière Mushrooms, Broccoli & Sugar-Snap Peas – the perfect low-carb dinner for a blustery autumn night!

chicken

Late home from work again, so needed something I could just ‘let cook’ whilst I unwound and forgot the tensions of the day!

This meal has ‘comfort’ written all over it. The classic combination of garden sage & chicken marries beautifully with the saltiness of smoked bacon and richness of double-cream. Al dente green-vegetables finish it off perfectly, providing that all-important variation in texture & bite. Low-carb, low effort, maximum taste!

So how to make it…

Salt the skins of the chicken with a good quality sea-salt. Add pepper and chopped sage (fresh or dried), then place into a hot oven for minimum one hour until the skins are golden and crisp.

In a sauté pan, brown your diced smoked-bacon / lardons. When they start to caramelise, add a thinly sliced onion and crushed garlic (quantity to preference, I used x2 cloves for 4 portions). You can then stir in some sliced mushrooms. You may need to add some butter / oil to prevent the mix from sticking. Cook on a low heat until all is soft.

Once softened, turn up the heat and de-glaze the pan with a little white-wine or dry vermouth. Why vermouth? It has a strong taste, so you don’t need as much (better for the carb count), plus it can stay in the cupboard and only come out for cooking purposes. Opening a bottle of wine means you need to drink it; and white wine is NOT GOOD on a low carb diet!

Crumble in a chicken stock-cube and pour in enough water so that the vegetables are ‘shoulder-height’ in the pan. Allow to reduce to half its volume.

Meanwhile boil some water for your broccoli and peas. Blanch / steam these for circa 2 minutes then drain. Take the chicken out of the oven and serve alongside the vegetables. Finish the sauce with some double-cream and chopped herbs. Et voila! The perfect low-carb dinner that just begs for seconds!

Thank you for reading & bon ap!

Adam.

Cholesterol – when it’s good it’s very very good; when it’s bad it’s horrid!

The science behind weight-loss can be a little intimidating! Every time I try to research the bits I don’t understand; the explanations uncover 50 more things I’ve yet to learn! The terminology is often complex & confusing; and the experts all disagree in their viewpoints. Never more so than with cholesterol.

This blog attempts to relay my own understanding of the science. It relates the basics from my own personal perspective & reading. I preclude the below with the statement that I have no medical or scientific training. If I’m wrong on any of this, then readers’ corrections will help improve my knowledge and are gratefully received!

So here goes…

Cholesterol is a fat (or lipid, to use the scientific term!). It’s present in all cells, in the form of cell-membranes. It also helps make vitamin D, hormones & bile acid for use in digesting fat in the intestines.  To reach all the places it’s needed, it travels around in the body’s own ‘high-speed motorway’; the bloodstream.

If you’ve ever tried to combine oil & water, you’ll have noticed that the two don’t mix. Because cholesterol is a fat & your blood is water-based; the very same principal applies. Fat would just be floating around in your blood-stream in lumps. We couldn’t utilise it for it’s purpose (the construction of cell-membranes, hormones & intestinal bile-acids) & I suspect our blood would become a little bit messy! (I’m picturing washing-up water, after pans have been soaking overnight).

To allow the fat to cohesively travel through the blood, the body encapsulates it in protein. This makes it a definitive ‘particle’, rather than just a blob of free-flowing oil. These particles of fat in ‘protein-wetsuits’ are called ‘lipoproteins’. The proteins which form the wetsuit have a rather pleasing name: apolipoproteins. The same process is applied to all fats in the bloodstream.

The protein-wetsuit should potentially be termed a ‘submarine’, because it’s made to carry more than just cholesterol. Along for the ride are 2 other things: triglycerides (produced from the food we eat) & phospholipids (the ‘glue’ which holds the whole lot together).

Our lipoproteins contain varying ratios of fat to protein. Some have more, some have less. It’s the ‘density’ of this fat-to-protein which determines the type of cholesterol. There are many different forms of lipoprotein, but the two we shall focus on here are ‘High-Density Lipoproteins’ (HDLs) & ‘Low-Density Lipoproteins’ (LDLs). Particles with more fat and less protein have a lower density. Particles with more protein & less fat have a higher density. It’s therefore the ratio of protein to fat which determines whether the particle is HLD or LDL.

In most people, 60-70% of cholesterol is carried in LDLs. These act as a taxi-service; transporting the cholesterol to where it’s needed. The important part here, is the statement ‘where it’s needed!’. If we have too many LDLs then we effectively have more cholesterol than the body requires. What does it do with the excess? It dumps it in the arteries as plaque, which then builds up and can cause blockages. This is the link between cholesterol & heart-attacks. A blockage in the blood-supply to the heart.

Because of this, LDLs are typically termed the ‘bad cholesterol’. They carry more fat than protein, & therefore pose a risk of blocking arteries if we have more cholesterol than the body can use.

If LDLs are ‘bad’, then why does this post mention ‘good cholesterol’? Is there such a thing?

Every cloud has a silver-lining. The ‘cholesterol silver-lining’ is HDLs.

Because these contain more protein & less fat, the taxi still has room for a few more passengers! HDLs are like a taxi-driver on a sunny Wednesday afternoon. They cruise around, looking for work! When HDLs encounter a bit of excess cholesterol, they pick it up from the cells & tissues, and take it straight back to the liver. The liver then unpacks it and either uses it to make bile or recycles it. It’s a self-perpetuating process where the body conducts its own clean-up exercise. If only my washing-up did the same…

But what’s this got to do with the ketogenic diet?

A high-fat diet will naturally raise cholesterol-levels. What’s important to understand is that a high-fat diet also raises the good HDLs! Raising your HDL-levels increases your body’s ability to scour bad cholesterol from the bloodstream. This makes our bodies more efficient at removing excess fat and bad cholesterol. The higher your HDL level, the less ‘bad cholesterol’ you’ll have in your blood! And that means fewer blockages which cause heart disease.

But what about the bad cholesterol. Doesn’t this just go up too?

Remember our submarine? Cholesterol was not the only thing contained in our lipoproteins. We also have phospholipids & triglycerides.

If you remember from our introduction to ketosis; insulin enables the conversion of food into energy, and stores away what energy we don’t use in the form of fat. Well, that excess energy is derived from glucose. When your body has more glucose than it requires, insulin prompts the liver to convert glucose into triglycerides (the second passenger in our submarine).

If you restrict dietary-carbohydrate (thereby glucose); you decrease insulin-levels.

If you decrease insulin (which converts glucose to triglycerides); you decrease triglyceride-levels.

If bad cholesterol is made up of high fat lipoproteins (LDLs); then lower triglyceride-levels mean less bad cholesterol in the blood!

Restricting dietary-carbohydrate prevents the conversion of glucose into the fatty triglycerides which contribute to bad cholesterol. If you ‘up’ your fat levels & reduce your carbs; you raise HDL levels, which in turn removes bad cholesterol from the blood. LDLs are reduced because you’re not producing fat from glucose.

I hope that about covers it. The process is hugely complicated and I’ve gleaned this from many different sources (all of which seem to contradict one-another). I naturally have a lot more to learn, so any comments which can increase my understanding will be hugely welcome!

Thanks for reading,

Adam.

A blustery day in the State of Ketosis…

The news-reports say we should be bracing ourselves for the ‘tail end of hurricane Gonzalo’!

It certainly feels like we’re in for a spot of turbulence, that’s for sure!

‘Bracing’ is the right word for it. ‘Invigorating’ would be another…

All weathers have their charm however; though I’m glad I’m not a leaf!

Thanks for reading and enjoy the day,

Adam.

P.S. – can you spot NJ…?

leaves

Great British ‘Bangers’, Aubergine-Rolls & Garlicky, Buttered Peas & Spinach with Feta – Sublime!

sausages

Low-carb comfort food at its best!

Coarse-ground pork sausages with a hint of sage; matched perfectly with buttery garlic peas & spinach. The sharp, tangy taste of feta ‘lifts’ the dish & freshens it; whilst retaining the all important ‘richness’, that lies at the heart of all comfort-food.

Quick, easy and ‘eat-in-an-armchairable’! Just perfect for those long autumn evenings with a chill in the air.

Slice your aubergine lengthways. Season well & glug on some good quality olive oil. Bake in the oven until soft & caramelised (40-ish mins). 10 minutes into the cooking time, put your sausages into an oven-dish and ‘loosen’ with a little oil to stop them sticking. Place in the moderate oven for half an hour.

Meanwhile, slice an onion & soften in butter until translucent. Add garlic and peas, plus a little water; and cook until the peas lose their resistance. I tend to stir in a stock cube for ‘warmth’ & background flavour, but this is not essential. Add some washed spinach and leave on the hob until wilted. At the very last minute, stir through some double-cream, season and crumble on the feta.

When the aubergine is cool enough to touch, add a slice of ham (or salami), then cheese, and roll into neat butterfly tongues. Place back in the oven for a few minutes to crisp the surface & melt the cheese.

Once all is cooked, pile onto a large plate & dig in! Make sure you prepare enough for everyone to have seconds!

Thanks for reading & bon ap!

Adam.

Tira Misu Cake – the ultimate low-carb, diabetic dessert! Rich, dark & luxurious – tasting is believing!

tira misu cake

Who needs carbs? This tira misu cake is every bit as good as its traditional full-carb cousin; just in cake form! It’s perfect for diabetics or those on a ketogenic diet, & couldn’t be simpler to make!

I haven’t put a pudding on this blog yet, so I was determined to go for one of my favourites. This recipe is incredibly morish. Because it’s make with almonds, it has that rich, moist, heavy denseness, which is decadent & indulgent; but also gratifying & filling.

And the cherry on the cake? No carbs! It’s amazing to think you can eat this kind of thing on a diet! The ketogenic diabetic can also dig in without guilt. A true winner!

So how to do it?

The cake-base is best made the day before (unless you have a long leisurely day ahead of you). Quantities can also be doubled to make a larger cake.

Cream 4oz of unsalted butter and 4oz Xylitol sweetener in a mixing-bowl. Two comments to make here: firstly, Xylitol. This is the only sweetener I have found which is 100% natural, doesn’t lose its sweetness through cooking & behaves exactly like sugar in cakes. It is granulated, so creams exactly the way a traditional caster sugar would. I cannot praise it enough!

Second comment? Always use your hands for making cakes. The only part where you need a utensil is when folding in the dry-ingredients. The warmth of your hands makes the butter so much more workable and it is the only way to truly ‘feel’ for lumps. Your hands are nature’s whisk. Use them!

So once the butter & sugar are light & fluffy, incorporate 2 beaten eggs with vanilla extract mixed in. Don’t worry if the mixture curdles slightly; if it does, I have still never made a bad cake through that happening! Once the mix is as smooth and aerated as you can get it, fold in 4oz of ground almonds.

Into a lined cake tin it goes, to bake in a moderate oven until lightly golden and firm on top. I have a Rayburn / Aga; so cooking time is less essential than in a fan or gas oven. I should imagine gas mark 4, or 180 degrees for 30-40 minutes. Take out of the oven and leave to cool until it is ‘convincingly’ room-temperature.

To make the topping, boil a little water and add circa 2 table-spoons of Xylitol / sweetener into a mixing bowl. Pour on the same quantity of hot water so that the sugar loses its graininess (nothing worse than icing with a bite!). Add to this a tablespoon of orange-liqueur or brandy (this is where your only real carbs will come from), 2 table-spoons of mascapone & the same volume of whipping-cream by eye. Whisk up with a strong elbow, until the mix is stiff and spreadable. You can use an electric whisk / blender, but please note: I consider that cheating! Check the taste to adjust the sweetness / booziness to your preference.

If you have a larger cake (or lots of patience) you can slice the cake horizontally to put filling in the middle. This does look a lot more ‘sumptuous’ but beware; almond cakes are far crumblier than their flour counterparts. Be prepared for a bit of cracking and re-sticking if you attempt this! Because it’s a Monday night, and mine is only a 4oz cake; I have chosen to just put the icing on top.

Whichever route you take, the cake-layers will require addition of coffee & liqueur. With a sharp knife, spear the cake so that the liquid has plenty of holes to run into. With a soup-spoon, ladle on coffee (strong instant or espresso) then your liqueur. Volume is to preference. I like it strong, but this will equally affect the texture. If you wish for a drier cake, then add less liquid. As a guide, I used about 8 tablespoons of coffee & 4 tablespoons of liqueur.

Once the cake is ‘dowsed’, spread the icing in as generous proportions as you can get away with, without being gratuitous. Place cocoa powder into a sieve or tea-strainer and give the finished article a thick and luxurious dusting.

The only thing left to say… Enjoy!

Thank you for reading,

Adam.