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?

Matthew’s Friends: a lifeline for epileptic patients

The charity Matthew’s Friends was set up by Emma Williams whose son Matthew got a great improvement in his epilepsy which did not respond to drugs but did respond to a ketogenic diet.

The charity aims to promote the ketogenic dietary option as an adjunct or alterative to drugs in children or adults whose epilepsy control is sub optimal. The hassle of following the diet often becomes much more preferable to facing a daily struggle with unpredictable and dangerous fits.

The website, Matthew’s Friends#KetoKitchen You Tube channel gives free ketogenic recipes, demonstrations and tutorials, which can be a great help to those embarking on ketogenic or low carb diets, including many diabetics. 

Professor Helen Cross from Great Ormond Street Hospital writes: Epilepsy affects 1% of all children, and in 25% of cases  there are continued fits despite considerable effort with medication. This can affect physical and mental ability, learning and behaviour. This not only affects the child but their family. The ketogenic diet has been used for almost one hundred years to treat epilepsy. There are different versions of the diet. The long chain triglyceride diet, the more liberal medium chain triglyceride diet, the modified Atkins and Low Glycaemic index diet. The best diet for an individual will be developed with the help of qualified and trained ketogenic dieticians in conjunction with the family. Such help is essential. In 60% of people who are resistant to anti-epileptic drugs, they respond, at least  to some extent to a ketogenic diet.

A three month trial of the ketogenic diet is advised to see if there is a response or not.In many cases, the response is so marked that medication can be stopped entirely. Obviously, direct clinical supervision is mandatory.

Matthew’s Friends can advise parents or people who would like to improve their epilepsy and provide contacts and materials to get started on an appropriate ketogenic diet. They are always grateful for donations to further their work.

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.

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?

Meals on a Low-Carb Week

I thought I’d record some of my meals this week, and allow you all to marvel at my food photography skills. Not.

Anyway, on Monday I ate half and avocado, a packet of flaked salmon and some salad, followed by dry-roasted peanuts. Of all the things I ate this week, this was the most aesthetically pleasing. I’m no food stylist as my photos on this blog testify, but it’s hard to make chopped avocado, salad and flaked salmon look rubbish.

On Tuesday, I ate a Caesar salad—partly to use up chicken we had in the freezer and partly to get rid of some of the jar of anchovy paste I bought the other week, which is destined to turn mouldy before I get round to using it all up*. My version of the dressing is this: whole egg, 100ml rapeseed oil, one clove of garlic, crushed, one rounded teaspoon anchovy paste, juice of half a lemon and 25g grated parmesan. Whisk together and use up within a few days.

Wednesday, I went for weirdness—two boiled eggs, cauliflower with a tin of anchovies chopped and mixed through, and the oil in the tin used to dress a salad. I’m eating tonnes of anchovies at the moment. They feel as if they are eco-friendly, super-healthy and those tins are dirt cheap.

On Thursday, I attempted a cauliflower risotto a la the Diet Doctor, as I wanted to try a new recipe. Cream, cheese, cauliflower and mushrooms… what’s not to love?! I’ve added the link to the recipe and you can see what it looks like when people who know how to make food look enticing get their hands on it.

Saturday, I decided, needed to be treat-worthy. ‘Treat-worthy’ is a subjective term. For my husband, it’s sirloin steak and chips whereas I can take or leave steaks. I’d rather eat a cheese omelette, so that’s what I did, doing my best to recreate a fluffy omelette I had in a cafe in Knaresborough last summer.

Throughout the week, I snacked on nuts. This week’s headlines about diabetes included a piece about nuts and how they might reduce the risk of cardiovascular problems for those with type 2 diabetes. That’s good enough for me. I love nuts—salted, smoked almonds in particular. But I’m happy to eat handfuls of the natural, unsalted varieties too.

What did that poor packet ever do to you?

And finally, we’ve been trying to persuade the cat his new best-loved food is Carne cat food. It’s a German make and it contains a lot more meat than most brands. Freddie, on the other hand, loves Whiskas – so much so he has worked out how to remove a packet from a tin and rip it apart with his claws…

Did you have a favourite meal this week and what was it? Let us know in the comments below.

*Does anyone know any other uses for the stuff? The jar suggests pasta and pizza, both out for obvious reasons.

Happy Chinese New Year – low-carb Chinese style recipe

It’s Chinese New Year and the Year of the Pig—all hail the pig, supplier of many good things in our household—so I thought this week’s recipes ought to include a stir-fry.

Traditionally, stir-fry recipes include rice or noodles. You could use cauliflower rice if you wanted (and there’s a great recipe here) or those zero noodles, but I find a load of vegetables and protein filling enough. I adapted a Dana Carpender recipe for a low-carb Hoisin sauce, and I went with tofu as I’m trying to watch my carbon footprint these days.


  • 150g cabbage, shredded
  • 150g mushrooms, sliced
  • 75g courgette
  • 1 red pepper, de-seeded, ribs removed and sliced
  • 100g celery, chopped
  • 1tbsp rapeseed oil
  • 1pkt Cauldron marinated tofu pieces (160g)*

Sauce

  • 4tbsp soy sauce
  • 1tbsp Splenda or other granulated sweetener
  • 2tsp rapeseed oil
  • ½tsp Chinese five spice
  • 2tbsp sugar-free and salt-free peanut butter
  • 2tsp cider vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic

For the sauce, blend the ingredients together and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large work, and add the celery, red pepper and courgette. Cook for three minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook for another two minutes. Finish with the cabbage and cook till this softens.

Add the tofu and about half the sauce and mix well.

Allow about 10g carbs

*Feel free to replace the tofu with chicken, pork or beef Stir-fry this first in oil until cooked. Set aside, cook your veggies and then stir back in.

The Weird and Wonder of Low-Carb Eating

pickled beetroot eggs on the Diabetes DietLadies and gentlemen – the pickled eggs were a huge success, though I’m the only fan in our household. And reader views varied as you will see in the comments on my original post and recipe.

I think you’ll agree they make the prettiest egg mayonnaise, though. Dollop a generous portion next to some poached or fried white fish or just put in a bowl, arm yourself with a teaspoon (smaller mouthfuls make it last longer) and eat like that. Before I completely repulse you with my slovenly eating habits—oh, scratch that, while we’re here, let’s continue with the weird and wonderful…

Embrace the odd

When you decide to eat a wholefood, low-carb diet, you can embrace odd combinations, pairings and dishes that stray from the well-trodden path. An oft-quoted saying for low-carb eating is that meals cease to be so different from each other.

Take breakfast as the best example. What can you eat if you shun the sugar, chemical load that is most cereals, you don’t eat bread but yet another plateful of bacon and eggs feels like a chore? Last night’s leftovers of course! A meal isn’t only dinner just because it’s got vegetables in it. Heat up your stew and have it for breakfast. Try a burger, chicken leg or a bowl of warming winter vegetable soup.

I like salad so I’ll add a side helping of it to anything, including the afore-mentioned bacon and eggs. Yolks that melt into salad leaves provide an instant dressing. A tin of anchovies, chopped up and mixed with steamed broccoli and cauliflower, gives you a side dish par excellence.

Cheese, cheese food of the Gods

I haven’t even started on cheese… Crumble blue cheese into minced beef cooked with peppers and mushrooms, top a curry with it, and always, always put it in meatballs and top it on burgers. Eat a lump of it with in-season strawberries, their sweet delicacy a nice contrast to a medium mature cheddar, or chop up carrots into batons and serve with a stronger farmhouse version. As we’re low-carb proponents, I can’t recommend this suggestion for frequent sampling, but a moist, dense fruit cake topped with a thin slice of blue cheese is heavenly… far better than icing overloaded cupcakes or birthday cake.

And then there’s the joy of butter—cooking, topping hot things with and paring off thin slices to eat as you cook. That might just be me. One of the more peculiar delicacies I like is two walnut halves stuck together with a bit of butter. Fatty heaven! I’m a big fan of creamed coconut too. You can cook amazing curries with the stuff, sure, but the real fun of creamed coconut is cutting yourself small cubes and allowing them to melt in your mouth. You can tell the warnings about saturated fat trotted down the road towards me, came to an abrupt halt and ran for the hills, screaming.

If a low-carb diet has been in your sights for a while but all that comes to mind is chicken, broccoli bacon and eggs and not much else, I promise you this way of eating is for food lovers; those of us who live to eat and who can spend hours planning, reading recipes, shopping and cooking. Take the starch out and other things rush to fill the space—weird, off the wall combinations individually tailored to your own tastes.

Enjoy!

Do you have any weird food combos or dishes you love to eat in secret? Let us know in the comments below.

PS—articles in the news recently focused on a study that stressed the importance of eating far less meat, fish and dairy for planetary and health reasons. For those of us who are concerned with both, there are some thought-provoking articles and arguments on the Diet Doctor website, which also focuses on low-carb diets for health.