Low-Carb Curried Cauliflower Cheese

roasted cauliflower
low-carb cauliflower cheese
Creamy, squidgy, spicy goodness.

Who was the first person to look at a cauliflower and a bowl of leftover cheese sauce and think—“My goodness, this will be a match made in heaven?”

Whoever he or she was, I’d like to shake them by the hand. If someone said to me, “Okay it’s your last meal on earth, what do you want?”, I’d say, “Cauliflower cheese, please, and don’t stint the cheese.” As it is my last meal, I’d ask them to top it with crispy breadcrumbs and some grilled bacon rashers for crunch.

[Conversation to the side. HUSBAND: Seriously, that’s your last meal? Not steak, or lobster or even a good burger with all the trimmings? Jeez. Who/what did I marry?]

On Friday night, I was at the Tron Theatre (get me) with friends and noticed the bar menu included curried cauliflower cheese. That set the neurons firing. The world’s best dish made even better?

The Tron’s version would have been made the conventional way—a white sauce with milk and flour to thicken it. Low-carb versions use variations of cream and cream cheese to thicken the sauce. Where would the curry bit come in?

One of the ways to cook cauliflower often recommended to those who hate the stuff* is to roast it in the oven with cumin and coriander seeds and chilli. That takes care of the curry bit. Then, if you combine it with a creamy sauce and grated cheese and pop it back in the oven you have the perfect low-carb cauliflower cheese.

You can serve this as an accompaniment to cold meat such as sliced ham or cooked sausages. Or do as I did—serve yourself a super-big portion with a lightly-dressed green salad. Yum.

Low Carb Cauliflower Cheese

  • Servings: See note
  • Difficulty: easy
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The best veggie dish in the world made even better

  • One large whole cauliflower, broken into even-sized florets
  • One tbsp turmeric
  • One tbsp rapeseed oil
  • One tbsp cumin seeds
  • One tbsp coriander seeds
  • One tsp black pepper corns
  • ½ tsp chilli flakes (or more…)
  • 250mls double cream
  • 100g grated cheese (extra mature to vintage cheddar is best)**
  • 1tbsp wholegrain mustard

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

Bring a large saucepan of well salted water to the boil, add the turmeric and cook the cauliflower florets for two minutes. Drain well so they are very dry.

Toast the cumin, coriander and pepper in a dry frying pan until the smell of them hits your nose like a sledgehammer and grind to to a powder in a pestle and mortar.

Take a large roasting pan and tip your florets in there. Add the oil and the spices and mix well so the florets are well coated. Cook in the oven for 15-20 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the sauce. Heat the cream gently in a pan and add the mustard and most of the grated cheese. Blend well.

Remove the cauliflower florets from the oven. Place in an oven-proof serving dish and pour over the cheese sauce. Top with the rest of the grated cheese and put back in the oven for 20 minutes.

Serve immediately.

Allow about 5-8g carbs per serving

Note—the number of servings depends on the size of cauliflower you started with. Mine was teeny, so my dish made two. If I’d served it as a side dish, three-to four. But we are in glutton territory here. Maybe I pretended the dish above served two and ate the whole lot in one go… no-one else in my household wanted to eat it, after all. Another idea is to prepare the roasted cauliflower as a side dish for any roast meat.

*Didn’t work on my husband. Cauliflower is up there on his list of the Devil’s Foods, along with broccoli, sprouts and blue cheese.

**This is a rough guide. If you choose to double it up, who am I to judge?

American Diabetes Association Endorses Low-Carb for Type 2s

eggs and asparagus

eggs and asparagusA landmark decision this week—the American Diabetes Association (ADA) has decided to back low-carb diets for type 2 diabetics.

Diabetes.co.uk reported the announcement this week. The charity has produced a report, ‘Nutrition Therapy for Adults with Diabetes or Prediabetes: A Consensus Report (Consensus Report)‘, published in the journal Diabetes Care.

Last year, the ADA acknowledged the low-carb approached as beneficial for treating type 2 diabetes. The new report goes further, stating that diabetes-focused nutrition therapy is a crucial part of overall diabetes management.

Previous high-carb recommendations

Previous dietary guidelines have focused on high-carb diets for people with or without diabetes.

The report says: “Reducing overall carbohydrate intake for individuals with diabetes has demonstrated the most evidence for improving glycemia and may be applied In a variety of eating patterns that meet individual needs and requirements.

“For select adults with type 2 diabetes not meeting glycemic targets or where reducing antiglycemic mediations is a priority, reducing overall carbohydrate intake with low- or very low-carbohydrate eating plans is a viable approach.”

Non-starchy vegetables

The report also says it is important to eat non-starchy vegetables, minimise the intake of added sugars and refined grains, and choosing whole foods instead of highly-processed foods.

As one of the authors of the paper, Dr Laura Saslow from the University of Michigan was also the author of a research paper published last year which revealed that 26 percent of users of Diabetes Digital Media’s Low Carb Programme put their type 2 diabetes into remission after a year. Remission was defined as reducing HbA1c to normal levels while taking no glucose-lowering medications or just metformin.

If you’re a low-carb enthusiast (type 2 diabetes or not), you’ll find lots of recipe ideas on this website and you can also buy our book, The Diabetes Diet as a paperback or e-book on Amazon. The book has recipes, meal plans and suggestions for how to adjust insulin when starting on a low-carb eating plan.

Chicken Caesar Salad – crouton-free

picture of chicken caesar saladEaster greetings to you all… here’s an idea for lunch or dinner for you. Now, Caesar salad without the croutons?! C’est sacrilege, surely? But if you follow a low-carb diet, the concept of tearing up the rule book on food is one you embrace.

I’m back from a terrific few days in the Scottish Borders (abbey-visiting a-plenty), and my favourite meals while there was a Chicken Caesar salad I had in the Townhouse in Melrose. Now that one did feature croutons, albeit small ones, but the dressing and the juicy chicken made it stick out.

I decided to re-create it at home. Issue one—chicken breast, a dry and often flavour-free meat. Issue two—my husband hates anchovies and they’re are often added to the salad or at least the traditional dressing.

Poached, not fried or roasted chicken

To avoid dry chicken, I poached mine in chicken stock (I used two cubes) with a handful of sage and thyme added to the cooking liquor. And to make an anchovy-free dressing*, I found an American recipe online and adapted it.

Here it is—crouton-free Chicken Caesar Salad suitable for low-carb and gluten-free diets.

Chicken Caesar Salad

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
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<em>A fresh, light recipe that is still filling and perfect for a late spring or summer dinner</em>.


Ingredients

  • 2 chicken breasts (the best quality you can afford)
  • 500ml chicken stock
  • Handful fresh sage leaves and several thyme twigs)
  • 3 rashers smoked back or streaky bacon
  • 2 Little Gem lettuces
  • 10 baby plum or cherry tomatoes
  • 30g Parmesan shavings

Dressing

  • 4tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1tsp Dijon mustard

Steamed green beans to serve (and boiled new potatoes for your carb-lovers).

  1. Bring the chicken stock to a simmer and add the breasts. Depending on their thickness, they will take 10-15 minutes to cook, but you shouldn’t have any pink meat remaining.
  2. Meanwhile, wash the Little Gem lettuces and pull off the outer leaves. Use them to line a wide bowl so you have a ‘tray’ for your salad. Shred the rest of the leaves finely, slice the tomatoes and put in a bowl with the lettuce. Add the Parmesan shavings. Whisk together the dressing ingredients and toss the salad to coat it evenly with the dressing.
  3. Grill the bacon until crispy. Once the chicken is cooked, chop or slice it and add to the plate. Top with the grilled bacon (one and half slices each).

About 5-7g carbs per serving.

Please note—the dish is high in protein and protein can affect your blood sugar levels after a few hours. Test your blood glucose accordingly. Our book The Diabetes Diet outlines how to deal with the protein content in meals.

 

*Ssh, don’t tell my husband one of the main ingredients in Worcestershire sauce is… you guessed it, anchovies.

Diabetes and the ol’ green monster

Me this week. Not attractive, I know

Ah, the green monster… It surfaced this week, startling me with its intensity. I’m talking about jealousy and the mean feelings I experience occasionally in relation to diabetes.

Every week, the mighty search engine that is Google picks out the week’s diabetes news for me. Most of the time, it includes new research, a dose of doom and gloom where scientists and doctors reinforce the lower life expectancy/increased likelihood of contracting a nasty side effect (Gee, thanks folks) and a Daily Express article telling you to eat this food to avoid diabetes*.

This week’s offerings included a video on the BBC where a teenage type 1 spoke about the pump she wears which uses artificial intelligence to monitor her blood sugars and keep them within normal range, and how it will allow her to soar through life. She’s one of the first type 1s to get this pump on the NHS.

Believe me, I know a one minute 55 second film clip tells nothing like the full story. I don’t know the extent of the teenager’s medical background. Her mother, the video showed, found it hard to sleep at nights because she was so worried about her daughter’s overnight hypos. I get it, I get it, I get it…

No awards for long service

But the horrible green monster reared up anyway. “It’s always the young ones,” I muttered, bad-temperedly. There might even have been a self-pitying tear or two. “What about me—don’t I get an award for long service? Thirty seven years with this ruddy condition! There are empty jelly baby packets in landfill sites all over Scotland to prove it**. I wouldn’t mind soaring myself.”

The nasty bout of whingeing was in part triggered by a letter I received this week relating to my progress on the flash glucose monitoring (FGM) waiting list. At my appointment at the diabetic clinic in September last year, the doctor put me on that oh so elusive list. The waiting list was only the start. After that, a mandatory half-day educational course takes place and then a letter wings its way to your GP requesting they prescribe FGM. Still there I was. ON THE LIST!!!

“Happy days, Emma!” I said to myself as I skipped out of the clinic, phoning my mum and then husband to share the good news. They whoop-whooped too.

Patience, not one of my virtues

I waited. And waited. Well, I suppose those half-day courses are over-subscribed,” I said to myself. Friends, patience isn’t among my virtues but I held off writing to the good doctor to request a situation update until the beginning of March. The letter I got in return said there is a cap on funding and until that increases, I’m on a static waiting list.

Again, I get it. Times are tight, but every other type 1 I know sports one of those FGM thingies on their arm, included blasted Theresa May. (Admittedly, I don’t know that many type 1s.)

Here’s the thing—I never envy other people their non-diabetes status. A long time ago, my brain must have told my heart jealousy over the impossibility/unlikeliness of a cure in my lifetime was too much of a wasted effort. But when I read of other diabetics and their access to the latest tools and tech, I glow so green I’m practically radioactive.

The blessings of perspective

Fortunately, perspective kicked in after twenty minutes or so of mumping and moaning to myself. In the US, two senators have launched an investigation into rising insulin prices (585 percent from 2001 to 2015 for Eli Lilly’s Humalog, for instance), and this in the world’s wealthiest country. Many people have tried swapping insulin types and brands, changing to something that might not work as well for them or worse, stopping it or rationing it.

In addition, part of my work at the moment involves communications for a health-based project in two African countries where access to any diabetic medication is seriously limited, and knowledge of how to treat the condition not as wide-spread as it is in the developed world.

I don’t have the latest up to date equipment, but I do have insulin (Brexit fears aside), plenty of test strips and all the other bits and pieces I need. The green monster surfaces from time to time, as I’m sure it does with you. Let it do its whinge-y bit and then remind Madam Monster we do live in the best of times for people with diabetes (country dependent of course). If I’d been born 100 years earlier, I wouldn’t have made my 11th birthday. So, Emma 1, Jealousy 0.5.

*Yet to click on that one as I assume it’s click bait.

**They will outlive me.

Peppercorn Sauce for steak #low-carb

plate with steak and peppercornsauceThis week, I tried a cooking method I’ve never used before—low cooking. For those unfamiliar with the term, low cooking can be used for tender cuts of meat. You sear it in a pan and then place in an oven at a very low temperature and cook for a long time.

It differs from slow cooking in that slow cooking is usually used for tougher cuts of meat and involves liquid. I used the low cooking technique to cook a ribeye steak we got from Donald Russell. If you live in the UK and buy certain magazines or Sunday newspapers, a Donald Russell flier will have fallen out of them at some point.

True cost of meat

‘Donald Russell’ is a farm in Inverurie (Aberdeenshire) which supplies many top end restaurants and Balmoral with meat and fish. I can vouch that the quality of the produce is superb. It is also stonkingly expensive, but that will reflect the true cost of meat especially if you want to buy meat that comes from animals that have lived a life as close to the one they are supposed to. If (and that’s a big if) my writing career ever makes me decent money, this will be the only meat I buy.

Anyway, I cooked the steak for three minutes all-in on a high heat and then popped it in the oven at 80 degrees C for 35 minutes, and served it with peppercorn sauce and salad (and fried potatoes for my carb-loving husband). Here’s the peppercorn sauce recipe. It isn’t the classic one as I find fiddling around with sauce recipes too much to resist. The sauce has about 5g of carbs per serving.

Peppercorn Sauce for Steak

  • Servings: 2-3
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 50g butter
  • 1tbsp peppercorns, crushed
  • 50ml brandy or white wine
  • 1tsp wholegrain mustard
  • 100ml beef or chicken stock
  • 50ml cream (I used crème fraiche as I had some left over, double cream or sour cream will work too)
  1. Melt the butter in a pan and add the onions. Fry gently until softened—about three to five minutes.
  2. Add the pepper, mustard, garlic and mix well. Add the brandy or white wine and bring to a simmer. Cook for three minutes and add the beef or chicken stock. Cook for another three minutes.
  3. Reduce the heat and add the cream and stir through until thickened. Serve with steaks or chicken. Or use it to make a sublime vegetable side dish.

Have you used the low cooking technique before and what’s your favourite sauce to serve with steak?

Drugs Trial for Diabetic Retinopathy Medication

I’d kill for her eyelashes… Picture from Max Pixel.

Once more, dear friends, I’m putting my body to good use—a drugs trial where I hope my small part contributes to better outcomes for other people with diabetes.

Last year, when I received one of my six-monthly invites to the retinal screening clinic, an invite popped out of the envelope. Did I wish to take part in a trial for a drug aimed at preventing the progression of diabetic retinopathy? Not ‘alf. I’m keen to hang onto my eyesight for the rest of my life, especially as I’m a voracious reader.

I do have diabetic retinopathy. The changes to my eyes happened years ago, I’m screened regularly and while the letters that follow my appointments tell me there is more evidence of minor changes so far I’ve not needed treatment. And long may that happy state continue.

Cholesterol reducing

The drug I’ve been taking is a fenofibrate. I say that as if I have any idea of what that means. I don’t, apart from it belonging to the fibrate class of medications and it also has cholesterol reducing properties. I’ve now taken it for seven weeks.

If you are not familiar with drugs trial protocol, if a person is judged suitable for a trial after tests, they take the drug for a run-in period. Further tests are done—blood pressure, height, weight and bloods—and then you are put in one of two groups. One takes the real drug, the other takes a placebo and that’s you for two years.

I’ve done the run-in and now I’m about to do the two years around with the other thousand or so people who have been recruited to take part. Exciting to think our participation might shape treatments for years to come, and here’s hoping the drug proves effective not just for me but for anyone else at risk of losing their eyesight.