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
  • Print

  • 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.

Beetroot Pickled Eggs – low carb snacks

picked beetroot eggs on the Diabetes DietFor most of us, eggs are the mainstay of a low-carb diet. Poached, fried, scrambled, baked, turned into omelettes, used as a bulking or raising agent or the basis of delicious sauces such as mayonnaise and Hollandaise, there are many ways to eat an egg.

And I thought I’d done them all… but there was one thing I shied away from, too scared to touch it—the pickled egg. The thought of it did funny things to my stomach. I imagined unscrewing a jar of them, my senses assaulted by an over-powering sulphuric, vinegary smell. And that’s despite the fact I love sauerkraut, so you could argue I’m no stranger to the sulphuric, vinegary stuff.

Anyway, as part of my Keep Sundays Special Campaign, last week my husband and I lunched at the Shilling Brewing Company, a Glasgow city centre pub that has its own micro-brewery on location, and happens to do stone oven baked pizzas. I left that dietary choice to the carb-lover in my life and opted for the salad on offer—quinoa, beetroot, rocket, whipped Gorgonzola and a beetroot picked egg.

Blimey, it was delicious. I was determined to make my own. One whiffy afternoon later—pickling anything at home means your house reeks of vinegar for days afterwards—and the results are these purple-pink beauties. Put them in your salads, eat them as a snack, chop up and scatter over cooked cauliflower for colour and contrast.

  • 6 large eggs
  • 150ml water
  • 350ml cider vinegar (Asda sells this bottle size)
  • 1tbsp sugar
  • 1tbsp salt
  • 1 large raw beetroot

You’ll need a Kilner jar or other jar large enough to hold six eggs and half a litre of liquid

Sterilise your jar by washing it in hot soapy water and then drying it out for 30 minutes in a low oven (about 110 degree C).

Bring a large pan of water to the boil and add a little malt vinegar as this will help you peel the eggs. Once the water is boiled, lower the eggs in gently, bring back to a simmer, cover and leave to cook for seven minutes. Run under cold water for two minutes to stop the cooking process and peel the eggs. Leave aside.

Peel and dice the beetroot. You might want to use plastic gloves for this, as the juice can stain. Place in a saucepan with the vinegar, water, sugar and salt. Heat gently until the sugar has dissolved and then bring to a boil. Cook for 15 minutes. Allow to cool for a few minutes and strain to remove the beetroot.

Put your eggs into the sterilised Kilner jar and pour over the eggs. Seal the jar and leave for a few days (advice online differs—from 48 hours until two weeks). Once you’ve opened the jar, store the eggs in the fridge and eat within a few days.

It’s hard to guess at a carb count. How much sugar and beetroot penetrate them? But I’d guess it’s minimal.

Making Sundays Special

roast pork on the Diabetes Diet
Roast pork – eat this to make your Sunday special… (recipe Ministry of Food, Jamie Oliver).

New Year’s resolutions? Pah! One, you can makes changes any time you want, and two, most of us see them as miserable—the lose weight, take up punitive exercise regimes kind. In this part of the world, January is a challenging month. The weather’s dreich, the nights are long and the pennies few and far between. Who wants to add starvation and exhaustion to the mix?

One resolution I do intend to stick to is my campaign to Make Sundays Special again. Years ago, my husband and I used to make a point of doing something on Sundays. He works most Saturdays, so the Sundays were the one day a week we could visit castles, go to Edinburgh, take the motorbike out for a spin, bike to Balloch, drink too much and cycle back via the main road while piddled*. Last year, we fell into the habit of doing nothing. He’d be downstairs catching up on Colombo (why, why, why?), and I’d hide away upstairs working or writing. We added doing the supermarket shopping to a Sunday. As I love food, I don’t mind the supermarket shop but does it belong on a precious day off? I think not.

Cut the screen time

In 2019, I’ve vowed to spend less time in front of a screen. I’m there for work and as a hobby, and I dread to think how many hours I spend hunched over my laptop. On the plus side, I use a standing desk so it’s not as sedentary as it could be. On the other hand, it’s still not healthy. Time to reinstate the Sunday activities, such as:

Ben Lomond

I have Ben Lomond in my sights. Hill climbing is one of the best activities you can do in Scotland. The Munro is right on my doorstep, and the shame is I’ve yet to climb it.

Three Lochs Walk

I’d also like to walk from Balloch to Helensburgh with Sandy. I’ve done it a couple of times with my friends, and it’s a fabulous walk because of the views you get of Loch Lomond.

Linlithgow Palace

We’re members of Historic Scotland and we’ve yet to visit Linlithgow Palace so a train trip there and a pub lunch is in order.

Uni tour

The University of Glasgow offers walking tours. As I work there, it will be fascinating to find out more about this iconic Glasgow building. Another tour that has always piqued my interest is the one you can do of Glasgow Central station. If I book now, we might get there in the summer. (It’s terrifically popular.)

Sunday roast

Roast pork, the before version.

Finally, it’s nice to include special meals in your Sunday plans. As a child, I didn’t like the Sunday roast—probably because it meant sitting at the table waiting for adults to finish so we children could be excused, and I have memories of thick slabs of meat and nasty bits of under-cooked fat. These days, I’m a fully paid up member of the Sunday roast forever club. While the meat is nice, the best bits are the accompaniments – home-made gravy with a decent amount of wine thrown in, roasted parsnips and carrots, crackling if you’re making pork (or just make it as a side dish anyway) and one roast potato as a treat.

Bring on the special Sundays!

What’s your idea of a treat on a Sunday? Is cutting back your time online part of your plans for 2019, and if so what do you intend to do instead?

*Don’t do this at home, folks!

Vegetable oil ingestion not so sunny after all

Adapted from BMJ 9 Feb 13 Use of dietary linoleic acid for secondary prevention  of coronary heart disease and death: evaluation of recovered data from the Sydney Diet Heart Study and updated meta-analysis. Christopher E Ramsden et al

Despite lack of evidence to the contrary I still see NHS dieticians telling patients to avoid naturally occurring saturated fat such as butter, cream and the fat in animal meats. This study didn’t get much publicity at the time so here it is again.

The question was, does increasing dietary omega 6 linoleic acid in the place of saturated fat reduce the risk of death from coronary heart disease?

What happened was that in the Sydney Diet Heart Study, a RCT done between 1966 and 1973, saturated fat (thought to produce heart attacks) was replaced by omega 6 fatty acids from Safflower oil ( vegetable oil and margarines, thought to be heart healthy). Although the blood cholesterol levels decreased in the intervention group, deaths from all causes, coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease, all increased.

The subjects were all men aged 30-59 who had had a recent heart attack.  As an example, all cause mortality was 17.2% in the intervention group compared to 11.8% in the control group. Results for cardiovascular disease were similar.

It is mystifying that dietary advice telling people to swap lard for vegetable oils and butter for margarine is still going on. Very telling is that date that this study was done. The results would have been out by 1975.