Chinese Chilli Chicken-Drumsticks with Spicy Butternut Noodles – a low carb taste of the orient!

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Sometimes life needs a bit of spice, and dinner is always a good place to start!

Chinese food can be problematic on a diabetic- / ketogenic-diet. This is principally due to the high carbohydrate content of ingredients like rice, soy-sauce, sweet & sour concoctions and all things in-between. That in no way means there are not low-carb dishes out there; simply that they require a little more time & creative thinking.

This recipe is a real winner. It’s incredibly straightforward to make and can be done ahead of time if you so wish.

Start by making your marinade. Blitz two ‘thumbs’ of peeled ginger and 3 cloves of garlic in a food-processor. Measure in half a tablespoon of chilli powder, a spoon-tip full of turmeric, 3.5 tablespoons of white-wine vinegar, one tablespoon of olive-oil, and a really good grind of pepper & salt. Whizz-up until smooth and pour over your chicken. Then rub in. Marinate for minimum half an hour, up to overnight. Then place your drumsticks onto a baking-tray and cook in a hot oven for circa 1 hour, or until browned & crispy.

Using a spiraliser or julienne-peeler (see zoodles), form your peeled butternut squash into noodles. Sauté these in a good quantity of butter and olive-oil until they begin to soften. At this point, add in finely-sliced shallot (or onion), sliced mushrooms, diced chilli, and a handful of chopped coriander. Stir in a teaspoon of ground cumin powder and season well.

Once cooked, take the chicken-pieces out of the oven and arrange over your noodles. Garnish with a squeeze of lime, and a final flourish of chopped herbs. Rush to the table and serve up while still piping-hot.

If you can resist picking them up & eating the drumsticks with your fingers; then you definitely have more willpower than I. Some food is just too good to stand on ceremony!

Thanks for reading and bon ap!

Adam.

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Chicken, Chorizo & Chicory Gratin with Smoked Ham, Brie & Emmental. One-Pot Low-Carb Comfort Food!

gratin

Okay, so I like things that rhyme! But believe me; that’s certainly not the motivation behind this dish. So what is? Taste. Quite simply put; it’s delicious!

I never begrudge the complexity of multi-component dishes (like lasagne), where 3 saucepans & a brigade of roasting-dishes are required. Nor do I bemoan the washing-up; if you want good home-cooked food, then it’s par of the course. But sometimes I must admit that one-pot dishes are a godsend! This is never more the case than when you’re late home from work and all you want to do is relax. So if that’s tonight, then this is the dish for you!

Not only is this recipe the ultimate in ease and convenience, it’s also very low in carbohydrate. This means that diabetics and those on a ketogenic-diet can share in the easy-life, as well as gluten-intolerants and paleo-fans!

Feel free to substitute any of the ingredients, but it’s certainly worth sticking with the chicory and chorizo, as they both add hugely to the flavour.  Chicory (I believe Americans may call endive) has a slightly sharp flavour, which makes it brilliant for things like gratin where the taste will ‘hold its own’ amidst the cheese. Chorizo adds a bit of denseness to the texture and has that deep Spanish earthiness, which lies at the heart of comfort food. The chicken is inter-changeable for pork, turkey or even seafood. If you come up with any triumphs, be sure to let me know!

This dish is rendered far more straight-forward if you have a roasting-dish that can be used directly on the hob-top.

Place your dish onto the hot-plate and drizzle in a glug of olive-oil. Add your chicken-pieces and brown slightly, before mixing in a couple of handfuls of very roughly chopped shallots or onion. This is followed by crushed garlic and a good shake of dried oregano.

Halve your chicory lengthways and add it to the pan. Give the whole lot a good stir to coat with the oil, then leave to cook a few minutes until the chicory wilts down a little. Sprinkle over sliced chorizo, then layer on slices of thick-cut ham. Season well then place the dish into the oven for 30 minutes, until the endive is beautifully soft and the ham just starting to colour.

At this point, pour in a cupful of double-cream and dot the surface with slices of brie. Grate a flourish of emmental and parmesan on top, then back into the oven it goes for the dish to brown-up until it’s sizzling and golden all over.

Serve with a light salad and a big appetite! You’ll need it, as everyone tucks in for seconds!

Thank you for reading an bon ap!

Adam.

Dawn secrets…

mist

At this time of year, the dawn is slow to give up its secrets.

Even the clinical light of day has trouble finding its way in the mists. It too seems reluctant to make a start; and takes its time to wake up fully.

But the mist is cool, calm and comforting. It has an emptiness which beckons you in; whispering promises of adventure around every corner. But when you arrive, all you find is more secrets.

So I’ll have to wait a little longer before it’s clear what the day will bring.

Whatever it holds for you, be sure to enjoy it.

Thanks for reading,

Adam.

Pan-Seared Fillet of Cod in a Cream-Cheese & Vermouth Sauce, Served with Parmesan Shavings & Fresh Basil – rich, decadent low-carb!

cod in vermouth

 

I’ve always been enchanted by the very Victorian concept of a fish-course. There’s something incredibly luxurious and decadent about it – a whole chapter of a meal dedicated to one element alone. By the mid-Victorian period, the advance of the railways meant that a ready supply of fish ‘on-ice’ could be supplied to the inland cities. This introduced an abundance of fresh seafood to the urban dining-plate and provided a cheap form of protein to the masses (fish & chips!).

One of the great joys of a fish-course such as this, is that it’s super fast to prepare because fish cooks so quickly. It’s also incredibly easy to do, with very little fuss. This recipe can equally be served as a starter or luncheon dish. Team it with fresh salad or steamed green vegetables such as beans, broccoli or mange-tout. Because it’s low in carbohydrate, it can be enjoyed by those on a ketogenic diet, diabetics, paleo-fans & gluten-intolerants. There’s no excuse therefore – go ahead & give it a go!

Thinly slice a couple of shallots and crush 2 cloves of garlic. Soften these in a saute-pan in plenty of butter. Once translucent, add your cod to the pan. There’s no need to turn the fish, so just clear a space amidst the onions and place it in. Turn the heat up and pour on a good glug of vermouth (unsweetened), followed by a little water. You want the liquid to come up to ‘waist-height’ on the fish. Season the sauce and place the lid on the pan for three to five minutes, depending on the thickness of your fillets.

You’ll know the fish is done when it starts to ‘flake’ on top. Because we’re not turning it, this is our sign that it’s cooked all the way through. Spoon in a couple of tablespoons of cream cheese and stir to dissolve the lumps. Lift the fish carefully onto a warmed plate with a fish-slice or palette knife. Then quickly transfer the pan to the hot-plate and give the sauce a quick blast to fully incorporate the cream cheese & reduce. Finally, finely chop some fresh-basil and add this to the sauce, checking one last time for seasoning.

Ladle your sauce over the fish and shave on generous curls of parmesan cheese. Rush straight to the table and enjoy. Delicious, delicious, delicious!

Thanks for reading and bon ap!

Adam.

 

Fragrant Moroccan Lamb Tagine with Roasted Aubergine. Effortless, exotic, low in carbs, high in taste!

lamb tagine

Moroccan food is one of my absolute favourites. The flavour-profile is so incredibly deep & exotic, that just one bite alone immediately transports you to another world!

Tagine is the ultimate example of this richly fragrant cuisine. In this dish, the earthiness of spices is balanced & lifted perfectly by the clean, fresh taste of mint & lemons. Cumin and tomato lend the dish a comforting warmth, which is hugely welcome on a cold wintry evening such as this. Even though it’s cold and dark outside, the kitchen can still be a place of sunshine, filled with the heady aroma of spices and perfumed scents of distant climes…

People are often put off cooking tagine due to the length of time it requires in the oven. Well you’ll be pleased to know that this version is incredibly quick! It all depends on the cut of meat you use – I used leg-steaks which are infinitely tender and don’t require slow-cooking. Diabetics or those on a ketogenic-diet might also be unnerved due to the high content of dried-fruit (thereby sugar) in all the standard recipes. Here, that flavour & sweetness is provided by orange & lemon zest, which further contributes to the perfumed quality & adds to the dish’s authenticity.

This dish is so quick and easy that you can cook it on a weeknight after work, without spending hours in the kitchen. Whichever day of the week you choose, this recipe will prove an instant winner & soon become a stalwart of your repertoire. I served the tagine with cauliflower-rice, but you could equally forgo this in favour of steamed vegetables such as broccoli or mange-tout.

Firstly, roughly slice an aubergine and sprinkle the slices liberally with salt and pepper. Place them onto a baking-tray and drizzle with olive-oil to coat. Roast in a hot oven for circa 45 minutes, or until golden and soft to the touch.

To make the tagine, season your lamb and seal in hot oil in a pan on the hob. Once browned both sides, throw in a handful of finely sliced onion or shallots, chopped garlic and chilli. Once these start to soften, sprinkle in a teaspoon of ground cinnamon, two teaspoons of cumin, one of paprika and half a teaspoon of ground coriander.  Stir these in, then deglaze the pan with a little port or red wine. This contributes to the rich sweetness of the dish and helps add that all important warmth.

Whilst the wine is reducing, drain half a can of tomatoes, discarding the juice. Add this to the pan, followed by the grated zest of half a lemon and orange. Finely slice a handful of mint and stir this through the sauce and then crumble in a chicken stock cube. Season and test for flavour. If the sauce lacks freshness add a quick squeeze of lemon juice. There should be enough liquid in the pan to come up to the ‘waist’ of the pan’s contents. If water is required, pour on and stir. Then place the pan into the oven for 20 minutes to cook through.

After this, both tagine and aubergine should be ready at the same time. If the tagine is still liquidy, stir in a small amount of tomato purée and reduce on the hob for another minute. Equally, if the chilli flavour is too dominant, add a quick sprinkle of table-sweetener, which will balance the taste. Ladle the lamb onto a plate, with the aubergine piled up beside it. Pour on a generous quantity of the rich sauce and garnish with more chopped mint and lemon-slices.

All that’s left is to enjoy!

Thank you for reading and bon ap!

Adam.

Seared Ground-Beef Cheeseburgers with Stuffed Peppers & Dressed Mixed Leaves. Who says a diet means deprivation? Low-carb certainly has its charms…

stuffed peppers

Who can resist the taste of seared ground beef, topped with sizzlingly melted cheese? Not me! I’m constantly amazed that you can eat this sort of food on a diet. Well that’s the wonder of a low-carb, ketogenic regime – now you can!

Okay, so the levels of cheese in this dish may be a little gratuitous, but on a LCHF diet we certainly shouldn’t be scrimping on fat. It fills you up & provides the essential calories which would otherwise have been gained from carbs.

The stuffed-peppers are something which marries both taste and practicality. Leftovers are a reality of every kitchen, & the low-carb-kitchen is no exception! Last night’s sausage-meat & sage stuffing, that was so delicious with roast chicken; now gets a second lease of life in yet another mouth-watering low-carb dish.

Peppers provide a great opportunity to use up odd bits & bobs which might otherwise prove insufficient to make it on their own. If you don’t have a pre–made mix to use up, then combine what you do have; mix it with a bit of cheese, and hey presto, Bob’s your uncle! Great combinations include tomato, ham & blue cheese, mushrooms, spinach & goat’s cheese, or even mackerel leek & parmesan. Left-over cauliflower-rice or zoodles can happily find a new home; and a second benefit is that all options make you look like a gastronomic superstar! What creativity! The choice is endless!

If you wish to make this from scratch, I include the recipe for the filling immediately below. If you prefer to go off-piste, then feel free to get creative! If you come up with something truly inspirational, be sure to let me know! The only guidance is that you include sufficient oil or butter to soften the peppers whilst they cook. If not, you risk a burnt topping and unpleasantly raw capsicums!

To make the stuffing, finely chop a small onion, half a courgette, and a handful of sage. Add these to a large mixing bowl then stir in a handful of roughly diced mushrooms. Then we add the same volume of bite-size chunks of sausage-meat (or sliced sausage) and circa 100g of ground almonds. Season really well and stir in some dried sage in addition to fresh. Beat an egg and mix this in, so that you have a texture which clumps & sticks slightly together like a lose dough.

Spoon your filling into halved & de-seeded peppers then dot the surface with butter or drizzle on a little oil. Place into a greased roasting-dish and bake in a moderate oven for 40 minutes, topping with a final grating of cheese for the last 10 minutes. When the peppers are soft to the touch and the surface is bubbly & browned, remove from the oven and place onto your pre-warmed serving-dish.

Whilst the cheese is browning, place a griddle-pan or frying pan onto the hob to heat through. Once piping hot, sear your burgers, between 1 to 3 minutes each side, depending on how you like them cooked (1 minute for rare, 3 for well done). Once you’ve turned them, top each burger with a slice of cheese to melt slowly whilst the underside cooks.

When seared to perfection, scoop out of the pan with a sturdy fish-slice and serve next to your peppers and garnish with dressed leaves. What could be better? The perfect quick, hassle-free, low-carb dinner for a cold and wintry evening!

Thanks for reading and bon ap!

Adam.

Slow-Roasted Chicken with Sausage, Sage & Onion Stuffing & Rich Gruyere, Parmesan Mornay. A traditional English classic, just minus the carbs!

chicken

Food must occasionally have that all important sense of nostalgia; and low-carb cooking is certainly no different! For as long as the English have roasted chickens, the combination of sage and onion have partnered them with outstanding & mouth-watering results. All three flavours are so warm and inviting that they speak ‘comfort’ with every mouthful.

The stuffing I’ve prepared here could equally be used as a main course in its own right, served with vegetables as a form of mushroom & almond meatloaf. The texture is dense and filling with a pleasing crunch on top; something so often lacking in low-carb cuisine.

This is another dish where you’ll find it hard to believe that it’s ‘diet-food’. The recipe is so rich and satisfying, you’ll return to it time and time again. And because it’s virtually free from carbs, it’s ideal for diabetics, ketogenic-dieters and those with an intolerance to gluten. Why not pretend that you’re all three, so you can eat like this every night!

Start by seasoning your chicken all over, then place it breast-side down into an oven-dish. Roasting the chicken upside down for the first hour will mean that all the fat and juices sink down into the breast, preventing it from being dry. Once golden and brown on the underside, turn the chicken over and re-season the top, making sure to provide enough salt that the skin crisps up and turns a fine, succulent bronze. This will take a further half hour to 45 minutes.

Whilst the chicken is roasting, make your stuffing. This couldn’t be easier. I’ve made a large amount to use as leftovers later in the week, but you could roughly halve the ingredients if you wanted to make less & eat it all up in one go.

Finely chop an onion, one courgette, and a handful of sage. Add these to a large mixing bowl then stir in 2 handfuls of roughly diced mushrooms, the same volume of bite-size chunks of sausage-meat (or sliced sausage) and circa 400g of ground almonds. Season really well and stir in some dried sage in addition to fresh. Beat three eggs and mix these in, so that you have a texture which clumps and sticks together like a lose dough.

Butter a baking-dish, then spread your mixture to minimum one centimetre in depth. Generously spot the top with knobs of salted butter, then bake for 1 hour, until brown and crunchy on top, and wonderfully aromatic!

Take your chicken out of the oven to rest covered in foil for ten minutes. Whilst the meat is resting, make your cheese sauce. Heat a cupful of cream in a saucepan, then add half a cup of grated gruyere and a third of a cup of parmesan. Grind on black pepper and add a handful of finely chopped sage and basil. Reduce on the hob for 5 minutes until thick and glossy.

Take your stuffing out of the oven and pile up beside your chicken. Pour half of the sauce over the stuffing, keeping the other half for people to serve themselves at the table.

Few things can be more heart warming and delicious that hot roasted chicken with sage. Low-carb dining doesn’t get any better than this!

Thank you for reading and bon ap!

Adam.

Indulgent Dark Chocolate Orange Layer Cake – a low carb, diabetic-friendly slice of paradise!

layer cake

Sometimes in life, actions speak louder than words. Well, my type-1 diabetic partner just dug into a large second-helping of this cake without even hesitating. Though I say it myself, this recipe is truly delicious; far better than my poor photography will ever convey. The carb-count is incredibly low, so it’s perfect for a ketogenic diet. But there’s also one other plus point – it’s quick! From weighing-scales to cooling rack in half an hour. That means you can make it any day of the week, even on a ‘late home from work’ Monday evening…

Chocolate and orange is a match made in heaven. This recipe relies on dark cocoa powder to add depth of flavour, and grated orange zest to give it that beautifully ‘fresh and fragrant zing’. If you’re not a fan of orange, you can equally keep the flavour to a vanilla base, or mint would work just as nicely. So without further ado…

Measure 4oz of xylitol sweetener into a bowl. I always use xylitol in baking. In my experience, it’s the only sweetener which retains its sweetness once cooked; and its granular texture means that it behaves exactly like sugar in cake-recipes. Cream this with 4oz of unsalted butter, then mix in 2 beaten eggs. When smooth, fold in 4oz of ground almonds, a half-teaspoon of baking-powder and 1.5oz of good quality cocoa. The texture should be a spreadable, if reluctant dropping-consistency.

Line two 9×7 inch baking-trays or one larger tray. Spread the mix thinly so that it just covers the bottom of the tray. Bake in a moderate oven for 15-20 minutes until the cake is resistant to the touch and springs back when pressed. I would certainly check after 15 minutes – as this is a layer-cake, we’re not anticipating much ‘rise’. The trays’ shallow depth and large surface area will mean this cooks quickly!

Whilst your cake is cooling on a wire-rack, make your icing. Take 10 and a half ounces (300ish grammes) of cream cheese and place into a mixing-bowl. Shake in a half-cupful of powdered table-top sweetener (not xylitol, as the icing is not being cooked); a cupful of whipping-cream, a half teaspoon of powdered vanilla-seeds & the zest of an orange. Whisk these together until thick and spreadable. Taste for sweetness, adjusting if necessary.

Once your cake is thoroughly cool, cut each rectangle in half; or if you baked it all on one tray, cut this into four equal oblongs. Place your first layer onto your serving-plate then spread a generous coating of icing atop the cake. Place your 2nd layer above this, and repeat until all four slices and icing are used up. Finally dust with cocoa-powder and a last sprinkle of orange-zest. Voila!

Few things can beat this recipe. It’s totally delicious. Don’t just take my word for it however; try it yourself. When you do, let me know you get on. If it’s not the best low-carb cake you’ve had all week, your money back!

Thanks for reading and bon ap!

Adam.

The ‘weighting game’. Putting off the diet we ALL KNOW we need…

If you’re overweight, I’m pretty certain this fact won’t have escaped your notice! So many of us lead our daily lives, aware that we’re carrying extra weight; but yet we do nothing about it.

If you’re anything like me, you hate the slow gain of the pounds, but seem powerless to fix it! The mirror becomes something to be ignored from the neck downwards and you start to only wear the bigger, shapeless clothes, which cocoon you, but end up making you look worse!

One thing I’m keen to understand in myself is why don’t we act? Why do we ignore it? What is it that makes us sit there, slowly allowing ourselves to get fatter? Whilst all the time we know it’s happening and yet we do nothing.

If you like your body-fat, then I can understand this reticence. Speaking personally though, I hate it!

For years, I’ve loathed Summer because shorts & t-shirts reveal what trousers & jackets do not. Other people are swimming & sunbathing; I’m sweating & mummified! In spite of this hatred; each Summer for the last five years has been the same.  Always just that little bit over-weight; just enough to make me feel miserable about it, but obviously not sufficient to prompt a permanent fix!

I’ve thought long and hard about this. Most things in life, if I don’t like them; I make a genuine effort to sort them out. With weight however, this has never been something I’ve managed to do. Does this mean that I haven’t really been that bothered about it; that I’ve simply been going through the motions to make others think that I’m “on it”…? No; I’ve hated it! Absolutely, totally & truly. So why no fix?

To answer this, I’ve thought back to each time that I’ve ‘been bothered’ enough to go on a diet. Did I start these in a half-hearted way? Was I just fooling myself & paying lip-service to losing weight…? No. Each time has been a full on ‘fridge-clearing, dawn-jogging, total commitment’ attempt!

In spite of this conviction, I’ve always made mediocre progress. After this, things just fizzle out when the results are sufficient to appease self-loathing & re-justify the things I’ve been denying myself! Each time, the diet has finished, but the stomach-fat has still been there; the bingo-wings have still hung stubborn & the chest has still sagged in a pitiful, vile & repugnant way.

Each time, such results have been so far from the ultimate solution I’d planned. But why? What was it that made things stall each time? Did something major happen to make my high hopes drain away…?

When I try to answer this, I can never identify a turning point, when the diet officially stopped and the bad habits returned. The ruin of good intentions has been a slow thing, day by day, week by week; and then I may as well not have bothered! I’m straight back to square one!

Was it that my resolve weakened? Did I cease wanting to be slim? No; each time, that desire has remained constant.

If I’m honest with myself, it’s simply that things have always just got too hard! The diet itself has always been my downfall. The endless restrictions, the hunger-pangs; that feeling of ‘not joining in’ when everyone else is eating & drinking. It just gets to the point where you strip all the fun out of life & simply can’t bear it any more. The need to live a normal life becomes stronger than the need to lose weight. And so you give in, and so does your aspiration!

So at the beginning of this post, when I state “so many of us lead our daily lives, aware that we’re carrying weight; but do nothing about it” – do I imply that we haven’t tried? No. That’s the last thing I mean. It’s worse that this – we’ve tried and we’ve failed! We’ve probably failed so many times that we can no longer bear it!

And so, with a sigh, we resign ourselves to our dumpy, fat, overweight bodies, and just accept them. The alternative remains a dream – it’ll never happen! Maybe in January I’ll try again. Maybe not. Who knows…

So; I still haven’t got there yet. Why I am writing this so soon into the ‘long diet journey’? What’s prompted this introspection? I don’t normally ask such questions of myself, why now…?

The reason I’m writing this, is that this time around things feel a little bit different! I’m not going to lie to you, every diet is difficult; but on the ketogenic-diet I haven’t experienced that apathy when the scales don’t say what I want to hear. I have keto-strips to give me a solid 100% sign that the diet’s working. The food itself in no way feels like diet food (take a look at the puddings section of this blog if you don’t believe me). Sure, there are things I must go without, but in their place there are other things I can have which don’t feel like deprivation! Above all; I’m not hungry all the time.

It’s the combination of all these things that gives me a sense of positivity this time around. People have said to me “I can’t believe you’re advertising your weight online”. Well, with the ketogenic-diet this doesn’t really worry me. The frustration of missed targets stays just that – frustration! It doesn’t turn to apathy!

The journey may be a long one. I expect it may be longer than I’d planned. But all in all, it’s not a hard one to make. This time I’m going to achieve that ultimate solution I so desire. Next summer is not going to be spent in a jacket & jeans. And that’s a promise.

I feel I should be writing this once it’s all over; once I’ve achieved my target-weight. But for some reason I’m keen to share it ahead of this, so that people get a ‘live’, fly-on-the-wall progress-report.

And besides; resolve is something that can start to waiver. I’ve just said above that past attempts have fizzled out despite my best intentions. Well if I that happens here, I want to know about it! I’m not going to play the weighting-game! If I track my positivity, I track when it starts to wane. And currently, it’s going strong!

My final thought is that positivity will always be infectious. If others are inspired to ditch the weighting-game, then I’ll be thrilled. For most things in life ‘try before you buy’ is not an option. Well for this, I hope to give you that opportunity. If it’s not for you, then at least you’ll have read the science, seen the results and lived through the practice! There’s no book to buy or motivational DVD. This blog simply gives you the whole picture – and I hope it helps.

So wish me luck. Two stone plus to go!

Thanks for reading,

Adam.

Week 7 – Sun 16th November

Well, I’m seven weeks in now. Just to remind you all, I started the ketogenic diet at 15 stone, 10 pounds. My goal is 12 and a half stone, by mid-March 2015. This means a target weight-loss of 2lb per week.

Week Sevens’s target-weight therefore? 14 stone, 10 pounds. Waistline measurement only once a month, so not this week.

The last seven days have been really hard. Last week I experienced a 1lb weight-gain for no reason, to find myself 2lb behind target. The week has consequently been filled with a rather unhealthy cocktail of paranoia and stressing.

I’m absolutely amazed at the kind, supportive responses I’ve received however. Wow, I’ve got a positive and encouraging audience! This makes the whole thing so much easier and the feedback is immensely gratifying. One lovely reader in particular (Janet) wrote:

Adam – Don’t worry about your weight this week. Your body doesn’t know its Sunday! You will probably have lost inches rather than lbs. Two weeks ago I reached my goal weight […] Then last week I put on 2.5lbs without doing anything different from normal. Devastating – but this week I lost 2lb. No rhyme nor reason. Keep going and don’t be disheartened. The weight will come off eventually. A normal weight loss is between 1lb and 2lb per week so you’ve done really well to lose as much as you have.”

Thank you so much for the kind words Janet. They were really motivating. And a huge congratulation to you for achieving your own weight-loss goals. You’re a lesson to us all!

So, have I fared any better this week? If I’ve actually gained weight again, I think I’ll go into a state of despair… I tentatively step onto the scales…

14 stone, 12 pounds. Thank goodness. The upward trend has stopped! A 2lb weight-loss from the week before and a sign at least that this is all working. Okay so I’m still behind target by a whole 2lb, but if I’m honest with you, as long as I’m losing weight I don’t particularly mind. And besides, I’m now 12 pounds lighter than I was seven weeks ago, so that’s got to be a big positive right? I’m also back into the ’14-stone bracket’ which feels great.

Do I think I’ll catch up the 2lb target-lag at any stage? Probably not, but that hardly matters. This is a life-change, not a race. As long as I get there in the end, that’s the important thing!

As I said last week: body-fat is a strange thing. It’s like a stubborn squatter – impervious to eviction! I’ve been in a constant state of ketosis the whole time; surely the weight should be literally ‘falling off’! My body feels slimmer, only the scales don’t reflect that. I went on the Atkins in my mid 20s. Every time I sneezed I seemed to lose a pound! Ten years on however, the weight-loss seems to be increasingly difficult. It certainly doesn’t fall off the way it did when I was younger. This gives me even more motivation to get it right now. If it’s harder in my mid-thirties, I can only imagine it’ll be harder still in my mid-forties! Best tackle it now therefore, before health problems ensue & I double the difficulty of meeting my targets with age.

As I also said last week, a further positive is that the diet is still incredibly easy to follow. I have no hunger pangs whatsoever and in no way feel that a ketogenic-diet lacks variety. Take a look at my pin-board here, to see the breadth of food we’ve being eating over the last seven weeks. It doesn’t feel like a diet, just simply a change!

And physically? Any changes to how I’m feeling?

No, still feeling in great shape! Because ketosis is a constant source of energy (unlike glycolysis which fuels in fitful peaks and troughs); there’s a strange sense of ‘background power’ when I exercise; almost as if I could go on forever. This feels really amazing, like nothing I’ve ever experienced before.

Nicholas-James says that he’s finding the same. In fact, last week he ran his old 3-mile jogging-route without even getting out of breath! And this without any requirement to refuel on diabetic top-ups such as jelly-babies or fruit-juice. Now his body simply does it all for him! It just goes to show therefore that a ketogenic diet is brilliant for type-1 diabetics!

All in all then, I think I’m over the negativity of last week. The positives of this hugely outweigh the negatives, and we’re both feeling a lot better. I feel motivated to continue, and who knows, maybe even catch up a little lost ground!

Please do ‘look in’ on me next week to see if I meet my targets. I find it really positive to have people read this – the support is a massive encouragement!

Thanks again for reading, and have a great week,

Adam.

Avocado, Bacon & Blue Cheese Salad with Tangy French Vinaigrette – Low Carb Heaven!

avocado salad

Salads needn’t be complex or involve hundreds of finely chopped ingredients to be flavoursome. Besides the vinaigrette, this dish contains just four ingredients: smoked-bacon, lettuce, blue-cheese and avocado. If you’re worried that its simplicity might detract from its flavour; don’t be. It’s delicious! Take my word for it.

I mainly prepare this recipe as a starter. But because it’s so quick and easy, it also makes a wonderful lunch dish for when time is tight. My recommendation is to make a large batch of dressing, from which you just serve a good glug every time you’re preparing a salad. A bottle of home-made vinaigrette will keep for months and is infinitely better than anything you can buy. Again, take my word for it!

Place rashers of smoked streaky bacon onto a baking sheet and oven until brown and crisp. I should say circa 15 minutes, but this very much depends on your oven. Whilst this is cooking, make your vinaigrette.

Crush a small clove of chilli into a mixing-bowl, then add a dessert-spoon full of Dijon mustard. Judging the quantities roughly by eye, add the same volume of lemon-juice as you see mustard in the bowl, then grind in pepper and a good crunch of sea-salt. Now sprinkle in a tablespoon of chopped parsley. Judging by eye again, pour in white-wine vinegar until you have the same quantity of vinegar to all other ingredients. Place the bowl onto a damp tea-towel to stop it moving, then whisk in sunflower-oil, drizzling this in slowly so that the dressing doesn’t separate. If it does, then no great shakes; it’s only visual appeal that’s compromised, not taste. Once you have circa 10 times your pre-oil volume of dressing, stop and have a quick taste on the tip of a spoon. It should be pleasingly acidic, but not ‘wincingly’ so. If too strong, simply continue to whisk in oil until you’re happy with it!

Once done, remove the bacon from the oven to cool.

Scatter salad-leaves into your serving-dish, then place your de-stoned avocado on top. The best way to prepare avocado is to halve it lengthways then hit the stone with the blade of your knife. A quick twist anticlockwise will instantly remove it, enabling you to simply scrape the avocado out of its skin with a soup-spoon.

Dice your blue-cheese and strew this over the avocado and lettuce. Slice your bacon into inch-length-strips and toss these over the other ingredients. Finely pour a generous glug of vinaigrette all over the dish and finish with a grind of pepper.

This dish is so unbelievably simple yet tastes fantastic. I can’t recommend it highly enough. Once you’ve had a go, be sure to let me know how you got on.

Thanks for reading and bon ap!

Adam.

Jamaican Jerk Chicken with Spinach & Coconut Cauliflower-Rice – exotic low-carb flavours from around the world!

jerk chicken

Some dishes are so steeped in culture & tradition that tracing their origins to find the one true ‘definitive recipe’ is nigh on impossible. Jerk-chicken is one such thing. The millions of variants all proclaim to be ‘original and authentic’, all using an extra shake of this or a secret touch of that. The one thing they all have in common however is the inclusion of allspice and scotch-bonnet chillies!

My diabetic-friendly interpretation makes no claim whatsoever to be authentic or original. What is does claim though, is to be every bit as delicious as its high sugar counterparts. I also claim ease, speed and incredibly low levels of carbohydrate. What more could you want?

Before I go into the recipe, just a quick word about allspice. Please forgive me if I’m preaching to the converted, but this was once a gap in my own knowledge-base. I therefore feel honour-bound to rescue others from the quagmire of ignorance which once plagued my own cooking know-how. Allspice is a berry, dried then ground into a powder. It is not a spice-mix, made up of generically blended ‘Christmassy’ spices, for use in mince-pies &tc. That is mixed spice! Sorry again if you already knew this; I shan’t mention it further. Consider yourself well & truly told!

Start by making your marinade. Into a large mixing-bowl, add 3 cloves of crushed garlic, 2 finely chopped scotch-bonnet chillies, 1 tablespoon of allspice, 3 tablespoons of lemon-juice, a teaspoon of dried thyme, 2 tablespoons of sunflower oil, a handful of finely chopped spring-onions and a heaped tablespoon of xylitol sweetener. Hot chilli requires quite a bit of sweetness, so don’t hold back on the xylitol! Mix these all together, then add your chicken to the bowl. You can blitz the paste until smooth in a food-processor if you like, but I personally prefer it more textured. Cover with a tea-towel and leave to stand for between an hour and a day. It’s completely up to you. Just bear in mind that flavours develop in intensity the longer they’re allowed to imbue.

Heat a glug of oil in a thick-bottomed pan, then add you chicken when the oil is piping hot. Whilst it browns, finely slice onion and peppers and add these to the pan. Once one side is done, turn the chicken and continue to caramelise the underside. After a couple of minutes, pour on half an inch depth of water, and place into the oven for 20 minutes, or until the liquid has reduced.

Meanwhile, make your cauliflower-rice. Instructions for this can be found in another blog as follows: cauliflower-rice. The only thing you do differently for this recipe, is add a tablespoon of coconut-oil to the butter, and throw in a handful of dessicated coconut whilst the rice is cooking. Microwave fresh or frozen spinach, then add this to rice, stirring through at the last moment.

Pile the rice into your pre-warmed serving-dish, then spoon the chicken and sauce all over it. Finish with a final flourish of coriander, or chopped herb of your choice. The taste should be hot, spicy, sweet, aromatic and incredibly morish! This dish is very difficult to leave alone if it’s looking like there’s leftovers. Good job then it’s low carb!

Thanks for reading and bon ap!

Adam.

Normandy Pork Calvados with Buttered Savoy – a low-carb dish with true pedigree!

pork calvados

When people refer to French cookery, they don’t mean a list of complex ingredients or fiddly, time-consuming recipes. They’re actually referencing a way of cooking. French cuisine is a methodology; a time-honoured discipline, designed to bring the best out of ingredients. When the French refer to the ‘art of cookery’; art in French means type or style. The ‘French-style’ requires the mastery of a few basic techniques which, once learnt; will deliver consistently outstanding results.

One of these competencies is the classic French method of cooking meat. There’s a stately ritualism to this process, which is almost comforting in its cadences. The succulent sealing-in & caramelisation of the meat is followed by the slow softening of shallots & garlic; then deglazing the pan with a magnificent whooshing ‘sigh’, as wine hits the thirsty metal-surface of the pan. As the kitchen fills with the delicious aroma of melting butter, fresh herbs and pan-seared meats, you’ll begin to feel like an alchemist creating pure gold from the very simplest of ingredients. It is truly an art worth learning!

This dish calls on the heady Normandy digestif calvados to bring out the sweetness of the pork and deliver depth to the sauce. Apples may be off the list on a low-carb diet, but a good glug of calvados reduced down in the pan certainly won’t impact the blood-sugar. This dish pays tribute to the classic affinity between pork and apple, that’s enchanted the taste-buds for hundreds of years past. What could be more welcoming on a cold Autumn’s evening that this?

Bring your pork to room-temperature and season well both sides. Heat a metal-lined sauté-pan on the hob (non-stick doesn’t deglaze with pleasing results) and throw in a knob of salted butter followed by a dash of oil. The sizzle should be a rewarding sensation in itself, as should the aroma. Add your pork to the pan and seal on each side until it’s golden brown and deliciously caramelised. You must excuse me for constantly repeating myself, but it needs to be said…! Do not fuss around with the meat in the pan or move it until it’s good and ready. No-one likes to be mothered; why do it to your dinner?! When the pork is ready to be turned, it will release itself of its own accord in response to the merest touch with finger or wooden-spoon. If it sticks, it’s not ready. We want the meat to caramelise and brown; not steam! And do not crowd it in the pan or the same will happen!

Once the meat is beautifully golden on each side, lift out of the pan and tip in sliced shallots, leek & chopped garlic. Soften these until translucent and just starting to brown, then crank up the heat as high as you can. This is not some obscure act of retribution, you simply want the pan to be as hot as possible for when you pour in the spirits. That way, you’ll deglaze with the maximum effectiveness, lifting all the caramelised flavours straight off the bottom of the pan. Once it’s good and hot pour in your measure of calvados, making sure to stand over the pan and enjoy the cloud of sweet, alcoholic steam which billows beautifully out into the kitchen! Once the liquid has all but evaporated, pour in a 3/4 inch depth of chicken stock (or water and stock cubes) and place your pork back into the pan, ensuring it’s surface is not submerged. Dissolve a small teaspoon of Dijon mustard into the pan and add a bay-leaf or two for warmth. Reduce this down for 20 minutes until the sauce is barely lapping the top of the vegetables then stir in a good handful of chopped parsley.

Whilst the sauce is reducing, thinly shred your cabbage and give it a good rinse. Add butter to a fresh pan and briefly sauté crushed garlic until soft but not brown. Place the cabbage into the pan, retaining what little water is clinging to the leaves after rinsing. Season, then fit the lid on firmly. Steam for three to five minutes, then spoon into your pre-warmed serving-dish.

Arrange your pork atop the cabbage, then test the sauce for seasoning. There are two schools of thought on this dish – cream or no cream. I have not added it, as I like the sauce to retain the clean taste of apples. If you like however, add a swirl of double cream at the final stage of cooking. This adds richness and the luxurious touch of velvet. It is entirely a matter of preference and a decision I leave completely up to you. Give it a go both ways and get back to me with your results.

Whichever way you’ve chosen to finish your sauce, pour this liberally over the pork and cabbage, then garnish with a final flourish of chopped parsley. Classical comfort food at its best! The results certainly won’t disappoint.

Thanks for reading and bon ap!

Adam.

Classic Prawn Cocktail – a much loved favourite, just without the carbs!

prawn cocktail

You may or may not know that the ‘Marie Rose’, or ‘Cocktail Sauce’ which accompanies a prawn-cocktail was first created by Fanny Cradock in the 1960s. Her original sauce was made from tomatoes, mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce, lemon-juice and pepper. Subsequent versions have been simplified to just tomato-ketchup and mayonnaise, which is now the standard version used.

Ketchup contains sugar, which is ‘off limits’ to diabetics and those on a ketogenic diet. My version of this classic therefore substitutes the ketchup for tomato purée. This makes it low-carb but every bit as delicious.

To make the sauce, take two heaped tablespoons of mayonnaise and squeeze in a good tablespoon of lemon-juice. Grind in black pepper, then add a teaspoon of tomato-purée. Mix the ingredients thoroughly until smooth. Next stir in half of your prawns, keeping the rest aside to garnish.

Form a bed of lettuce in your salad-bowl. Inch-length chunks of celery laid on top of this add a pleasing textural variation. Quickly drizzle vinaigrette or olive-oil over the leaves, then spoon your prawns-in-sauce all over the salad. Arrange the remaining prawns at intervals across the surface, keeping the tails-on for decoration.

Sprinkle a few cubes of feta over the dish and finally shave a flourish of deliciously-salty parmesan over the top. A good squeeze of lemon sees the dish complete!

Prawn-cocktail must be the ultimate late-twentieth-century starter; one that time has been unable to diminish. If you haven’t had it for a while, then try it as above. You’ll soon be reminded what’s kept the dish so universally popular for the last 50 years!

Thanks for reading and bon ap!

Adam.

Fat-Cells & Body-Fat – the bitter truth! “Adipocytes – a fat-cell by any other name would swell as we eat…”

It’s difficult not to feel an irrational hatred towards fat-cells. Admittedly they’re there for a reason, and they play an incredibly important role. I just wish they weren’t quite so ‘visible’.

When I say ‘they play an important role’ – what is it they actually do? There are three primary functions of fat-cells (adipocytes):

  1. They act as a fuel-reserve in times of energy depletion
  2. They provide insulation and conserve body-heat
  3. They act as padding to protect the organs

Fat-cells come in two different forms:

  1. Brown adipocytes – the fat contained within these is utilised for heat-production. It cannot generally be metabolised as energy
  2. White adipocytes – fatty-acids secreted by white fat-cells can be used by muscles & tissue as a ready source of energy.

Because white fat-cells are the ones which secrete a fuel-source; these will form the principal focus of this post. It’s the harnessing of energy from white fat-cells that forms the basis of ketosis. As such, we ought at least to understand a little bit about them.

I recently discovered a fact about fat-cells that left me feeling cold – fat-cells never die; they just shrink!

When I say ‘they never die’, yes they do have a finite lifespan; but when they come to the end of that lifespan, the cells simply get replaced. They never truly decrease in number.

As someone who was happily losing weight, secure in the belief that their fat-cells were dissolving; this came as quite a shock. It almost verged on the depressing!

So what does this actually mean to someone who’s trying to shift a few pounds? Does everyone have the same number of fat-cells? If you’re overweight, are you condemned to stay that way for the rest of your life?

Babies are generally quite pudgy. The degree of ‘pudginess’ is pretty universal; it certainly in no way corresponds to the breadth of body-shapes displayed in the adult population. At what stage then does this divergence occur?

Men & women store fat in different places. Men around the stomach, chest & buttocks; women around the buttocks, hips, waist & breasts. As with babies, this differentiation is not marked in childhood; it’s during puberty that white fat-cells are laid down. After this point, the number of fat cells in your body remains unchanged throughout your lifetime. I wish someone had told me this when I was 13!

The only exception to this is found in the case of the clinically obese. In this state, the existing fat-cells cannot contain the sheer quantity of fat generated by the body. New fat-cells are therefore generated to store it. What a lovely thought.

It’s the sex-hormones (testosterone & estrogen) which prompt how and where our body-fat is stored. And these only kick in during the teenage years.

So, if the number of fat-cells our bodies contain is determined at puberty; how come our waistlines expand and contract in response to what we eat? How is it that going on a diet makes us slimmer? If we’re not losing fat-cells, how do we lose weight?

The answer is, that fat-cells shrink. And if we eat too much, they expand. Each cell is like a small plastic-bag, constantly topping-up or depleting its fat-levels in response to our energy-intake & expenditure. When metabolic times are hard, our fat-cells shrink. That’s because the fat they contain is being burnt as energy (the joyous state of ketosis!).  As times improve & energy becomes more plentiful; our bodies ferret away the excess and store it in the form of triglycerides in our white fat-cells.

When our adipocytes are full, we expand like a balloon and look fat. When they’re emptied, we lose weight and slim down.

And what’s the best way of achieving this? Ketosis.

In order to lose weight most effectively, we need a diet where our body switches to stored-fat as its principal energy-source. The body will always burn glucose first, because it’s easy & rife. Glucose is the body’s “energy-path” of least resistance.

Accessing the fat-stores requires enzymes that we’ve chiefly put into retirement. Our bodies have become so dependent on glucose-energy that we lose our ability to burn fat. The only way to make the switch, is to remove glucose from our diet entirely. This way, the body cannot simply (and lazily) go down its trusted path of least resistance, because that path’s no longer available!

Once the required enzymes have been built up in sufficient quantity, we enter a state where our bodies can burn either fat or glucose as energy. This is called ketogenic-adaptation (more on this is another post). It’s the state in which our ancestors lived, able to access whichever fuel-source was most readily available, with no great ‘metabolic shift’ required.

But if you need to lose weight and shrink your fat-cells; the fastest, most reliable and healthiest way, is to cut out the carbs which provide us with glucose. You’ll then enter a ketogenic state and start to burn your stored-fat as fuel.

So give your fat-cells a spring-clean and make sure it’s a good clear-out! Don’t forget to let me know how you get on!

Enough for now and thanks for reading,

Adam.

A good workman always thanks his tools…

WP_20141113_001

I have a lot of cooking equipment! Some are cherished heirloom pieces which only emerge on Christmas day; others are well tended workhorses which dutifully & faithfully serve, day in, day out.

There’s a third classification however: the champions of versatility!

I shall never regret the purchase of my trusty pizza-paddle. Not only does it render scooping deliciously crusty pizzas out of the aga an absolute breeze; it also takes centre stage as part of crack-squad trio.

Behold, mouse-catching kit extraordinaire!

Zadok (Keto-Kat) has a particularly irritating habit of bringing live mice into the house and depositing them directly at your feet, from where they immediately scamper off behind the furniture.

His sense of timing is uncanny! Just when your hands are covered in boot-polish, or when you’re carrying a load of clean washing upstairs, is when he chooses to make his gifts.

Then follows a frantic half-hour of hefting furniture, swearing and body-contortion, whilst the cat looks on with contented pride.

So pizza-paddle, food-cloche and mitt; we salute thee! Thou art true princes of utility! Long may ye reign!

Thanks for reading and have a good day.

Adam.

Week 6 – Sun 9th November

Well, I’m six weeks in now. Just to remind you all, I started the ketogenic diet at 15 stone, 10 pounds. My goal is 12 and a half stone, by mid-March 2015. This means a target weight-loss of 2lb per week.

Week Six’s target-weight therefore? 14 stone, 12 pounds. Waistline measurement only once a month, so not this week.

I step onto the scales…

15 stone, 0 pounds. I’m devastated! Completely behind target by a whole 2lb, & a 1lb weight-gain from the week before! I cannot understand this at all.

Okay, so I’m still 10 pounds lighter than I was six weeks ago. But I’m back into the ’15-stone bracket’ which makes all my efforts feel totally pointless.

Body fat is a strange thing. It’s like a stubborn squatter – impervious to eviction! I’ve been in a constant state of ketosis the whole time; surely the weight should be literally ‘falling off’! My body feels slimmer, only the scales don’t reflect that.

I’m aware that, as fat-cells deplete their stores of triglycerides (the body’s ‘storage’ form of fat), the cell temporarily displaces lost fat with water. Eventually, the cell realises that it’s not going to be re-filled any time soon, and sulkily shrinks down to ’empty’. Water is heavy stuff, so you can actually be burning body fat for quite some time yet see no reduction in weight (read more about this here). This is the most likely explanation, but it’s difficult to simply ‘take it on faith’!

Another thing that may equally be to blame, is that I’ve had a birthday this week. 36 years-young! Although I’ve still been incredibly good with the carbs, I took Thursday & Friday off work. This means I was at home for fours days on the trot. Implication? More cooking, bigger lunches and puddings! Even low-carb pudding contributes to calorific intake; so if the volume of food I’ve been eating increased over the last few days, it stands to reason that my calorific intake also increased in equal measure.

I suppose I must simply keep telling myself that weight is a fluid thing. Everyone who diets has goods weeks and bad weeks. I’d just rather leave the bad weeks to someone else!

On the positive side however, the diet is still incredibly easy to follow. I have no hunger pangs whatsoever, feel completely relaxed about food and in no way feel that a ketogenic-diet lacks variety. If anything, it’s pushing me to cook & expand my repertoire a lot more. I’m constantly thinking ahead of time, planning nice, interesting things to cook so I can post them on this blog!

And physically? Any changes to how I’m feeling?

On the whole, in great shape! I still feel increasingly active and want to get moving and out-and-about. Because ketosis is a constant source of energy (unlike glycolysis which fuels in fitful peaks and troughs); there’s a strange sense of ‘background power’ when I exercise; almost as if I could go on forever. This feeling is interesting, new and rather novel!

All in all, I shouldn’t grumble! I’m still well on the way to being a new slimmerfitter me, and there’s no looking back. I just hope I fare better next week, to regain a little of the lost ground. I don’t mind missing my targets if the general trend is a downward one. But if the ‘upward trend’ continues, maybe I’ll have to start reassessing the whole thing!

Please do ‘look in’ on me next week to see if I meet my targets. I find it really positive to have people read this – the support is a massive encouragement!

Thanks for reading, and have a great week,

Adam.

Classic ‘Quick’ Coq Au Vin with Blue-Cheese-Baked Garlic Mushrooms – Low Carb ‘Nutrition with Tradition’

coq au vin

You can’t beat a classic; but you can speed it up! Coq-au-vin is traditionally cooked with meat on the bone (thighs, drumsticks &tc). Although delicious, when you’re late home from work on a week-night; we don’t all have that luxury of time. But this doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy a satisfying home-cooked meal!

This dish sees the chicken cooked on the hob (far quicker than in the oven) . I use diced breast-pieces to speed things up a notch. You can of course revert to slower-cooked cuts of meat if you don’t have time constraints; but as it’s a Thursday-night, I’m opting for the faster version!

Start by sautéing chopped bacon (lardons) in a thick-bottomed pan. If more fat is required to prevent the bacon from sticking, then add a knob of butter and a splash of oil. Once browned, add your chicken-pieces.

Chop onions or shallots into hearty chunks and add these to the pan. Follow this with a little chopped garlic. Once the chicken and vegetables are nicely brown, deglaze the pan with a little red-wine. Once this is almost reduced, pour on water until the chicken is shoulder-high in liquid. Season well and crumble in a stock-cube.

Whilst your stock is reducing, place your mushrooms on a baking-tray and crush a little garlic onto each. Top this with a knob of button, season generously, then into the oven it goes. After 15 minutes, add slices of blue cheese, then bake for a further 10-15 minutes until the cheese is gloriously sizzling and just starting to brown.

By this time, your chicken should be almost ready. Add a squeeze of tomato purée and a good handful of mange-tout. Place a lid on the pan and steam the vegetables in the sauce for two minutes until al dente.

Ladle the chicken onto your serving-dish and position the mushrooms beside it. A final flourish of chopped parsley completes the job, and dinner is served!

All in all, a meal fit for a king (and a low-carb one at that!).

Thanks for ready and bon ap!

Adam