Sausage, Pepper and Red Lentil Casserole

Plate of sausage casserole on The Diabetes DietProving once again, a low-carb diet can be plant-based*, I bring you the sausage, pepper and red lentil casserole!

My ‘beef’ (see what I did there) with the hi-jacking of the term ‘plant-based’, is that it’s assumed to mean vegan, whereas I’d argue you can eat meat, fish and eggs and still have most of your diet made up of plants.

Sausages and lentils have a long dating history. The French twin them together for cassoulets as lentils soak up meat juices and add cheap bulk to a dish. Bulk’s important to me. Who wants a small bowlful of food when you can have a big one?

The better quality your sausages, the better the finished dish. The casserole is great with buttered cauliflower or broccoli. Or you could add another 250-300ml of vegetable or chicken stock to turn it into soup.

And a cheeky helping of grated cheese on top always adds extra deliciousness.

Sausage, red pepper and lentil casserole

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • Two peppers, insides removed and chopped
  • 100g celery, sliced finely
  • 100g mushrooms, sliced
  • 75ml red wine
  • Four, good quality pork sausages, each cut into chunks
  • 75g chorizo, sliced
  • 75g red lentils
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 400g tinned, chopped tomatoes
  • 1 chilli, chopped (optional)
  • 1tsp smoked paprika
  • Salt and pepper

Put everything into your slow cooker, stir well and put on the high setting for four hours.

The mix makes a soupy casserole because it’s done in the slow cooker. You might want to take the lid off yours for the last 20 minutes to get rid of some of the excess liquid.

To make the recipe on the stove, use a large saucepan. Place the chorizo slices in the pan, then turn on a gentle heat so the oils from the sausage run out. Add the other sausages, celery, peppers, mushrooms and garlic, mix well and cover. Cook over the gentle heat for ten minutes. Add the tomatoes, lentils, red wine, chilli and paprika, stir well and bring to the boil. Turn down to a simmer and cook for a further 30 minutes, mixing from time to time.

In both instances, add salt and pepper to taste.

Each portion has 17g carbs and 4g fibre.

*And also that my food styling and photography skills get no better.

 

Lamb, Hummus—an Ethical Eating Experience?

a picture of chunks of lamb marinating in a dish by The Diabetes DietCan you be an ethical carnivore? I asked the question in a post a few weeks ago as I’ve been reading The Ethical Carnivore – My Year Killing to Eat by Louise Gray.

The one-time vegetarian in me wants to feel that the food choices I make cause minimal suffering and don’t impact the environment as negatively as factory farming does. At the same time, I like following an omnivorous diet and think that is the best possible health choice.

So, what to eat?

Eat less meat

I believe in what small-scale producers do. They deserve our support, but their products are expensive and more of an effort to seek out. As many people have discovered before me, the answer is to eat less meat, which is what most people did in years gone by, and buy the best quality you can sourced from farms that treat their animals with respect and dignity.

Chicken, pork and beef are all problematic unless you buy them from farmers’ markets and small co-operatives because of the ways they are farmed before they are killed. The same applies to dairy. As for fish, most of the stuff in supermarkets comes from fish farms and/or is sourced from far-away countries, making it an environmentally unfriendly choice.

Unlike Louise Gray, I can’t bring myself to directly kill anything, hypocritical as that is. But I’m open to eating a lot less meat, trying out plenty of low-carb vegetarian dishes and including more beans and pulses in my diet.

Lamb – the ethical choice

I’m also happy to continue eating lamb, as the production of lamb doesn’t lend itself easily to factory faming. And there are sound arguments for it here. If you want to eat lamb in this country, it can be a challenge sourcing the UK stuff (an irony that appals me as a farmer’s daughter) because most supermarkets import New Zealand lamb.

Nevertheless, if you do find it, lamb lends itself to many delicious dishes, including this one – lamb with home-made hummus. This amount makes enough for two to three dinners.

a pot of hummus made by The Diabetes DietFor truly velvet-y hummus, you should take the skins off the chickpeas. I’ve done it—once—and it makes quite a difference. But it’s a tedious job. Skins-on chickpeas will still make a fabulous-tasting dish.

Lamb with Hummus

  • Servings: 2-3
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 2 lamb leg steaks, chopped into equal sized chunks
  • Juice of a lemon
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • I green chilli, sliced finely
  • 1 tbsp sumac
  • Rapeseed oil
  • 1 tin chick peas, drained
  • 3tbsp tahini
  • Salt and pepper

Mix the chopped meat in a bowl with a tablespoon of the lemon juice, salt and pepper, the sumac, chilli and one of the cloves of crushed garlic. Set aside to marinate for at least 30 minutes, though a couple of hours will benefit the dish.

Blend the garlic, lemon juice and tahini in a food processor so a minute or so to get it as smooth and combined as possible. Add the drained chickpeas and two tablespoons of rapeseed oil. Mix well. Add a tablespoon of water if you feel the mix is too thick. You can also use a hand blender to make the dish.

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a frying pan and add the meat. Cook over a high heat—the meat will take about five to ten minutes.

Serve with the hummus.

My carb-loving husband made his own flat breads to go with this, but it’s fine just as it is with a salad on the side—perhaps a Greek one to continue the Mediterranean theme.

Allow about 8-10g carbs per serving.

 

 

The Ethics of Eating Meat

Diabetes Diet

Diabetes DietHow do you love animals, hate waste and environmental damage, and yet eat meat, fish, dairy and eggs at the same time?

I ask myself this a lot. I was a vegetarian for years because I called myself an animal lover and meat-consumption didn’t seem to fit. As a long-term lover of vegetables and pulses, I found the food delicious—certainly the stuff I made for myself in the house. I suffered my way through plenty of bad pasta dishes in restaurants staffed by unimaginative chefs.

In 2010, I embraced low-carb living. At first, I only added fish to my diet. You can do a low-carb version of vegetarianism, but it’s limited. Fish added variety and health benefits even if my ethical self shuddered at the thought of being one of ‘those’ vegetarians.

Bacon temptation

I started eating meat in 2013. The stance didn’t feel as big as a jump as going from vegetarian to eating fish, so it wasn’t such a dramatic shake-up of my internal moral compass. And blimey, bacon… it’s a cliché that many a former vegetarian stumbled at the bacon hurdle and it’s well founded.

Diabetes Diet's picture of the cover of Louise Gray's bookThe reason for all this pondering is a book I’ve just bought—The Ethical Carnivore: My Year of Killing to Eat by Louise Gray. The premise is that the Daily Telegraph’s onetime environmental journalist decided she would only eat meat she’d killed herself, and the book begins with her first experience of shooting a rabbit.

I’m 75 percent certain I couldn’t kill an animal deliberately. I’m of the generation that’s become completely detached from the animals we put in our mouths. My father shot rabbits and gutted and skinned them, and he could do the same with birds. I have a razor-sharp memory of him standing at the back door, one back foot of a dead rabbit in each hand, and ripping it apart to allow the cats to dig in

Chickens coming to life

Meat’s almost always appeared in front of me packaged, its origins neatly obscured. Handling chickens makes me flinch as I visualise a head sprouting from that gaping cavity or feathers poking through the skin.

Veganism’s argument for greater health benefits doesn’t convince me. An omnivorous diet of unprocessed foods and plenty of fruit and vegetables will provide the same health gains. But I’m still left with the conundrum—how to eat meat that minimises animal suffering and doesn’t cost the planet dearly?

The ethics thing trips me up all the time. Buy free-range eggs—yes, but they clip the birds’ breaks and kill the male chicks at birth in a horrible way, anyway. Buy Red Tractor meat—not according to this article about what it means for animal welfare standards. Eat meat from the Farmers Market—but it’s so expensive. Eat organic dairy—what about the forced separation of cows from calves and what the industry does to male calves?

I’ve only started the book and I’m hoping it will end with a neat set of guidelines. Follow these and you too can be an ethical carnivore kind of thing. I doubt reading The Ethical Carnivore will turn me into a hunter, but if I emerge with a better understanding of what I can do, I’ll be delighted.

How do you deal with the ethics of eating meat? Any tips or advice gratefully received…

Ethics picture – Madhamathi SV and licenced under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International Licence. 

 

Public Health Collaboration Conference 2018: a great success for Lifestyle Medicine

I was delighted to attend and speak at the third PHC conference in London this year.  We met at the Royal College of General Practitioners in London on the sweltering weekend of the Royal Wedding. Apart from superb international speakers we were treated to low carb, high protein food, such as one would typically eat on a ketogenic diet. Instead of picking at our dinners as we often have to do with mass catering  we could eat the whole lot. Great!

Dr Peter Brukner from Australia started off the weekend with a review of what was happening in the low carb world. There are more and more reports coming out describing the advantages of ketogenic and low carb diets to different groups of people but the establishment are fighting back viciously as can be seen by the attack on Professor Tim Noakes in South Africa.  Indeed if his defence lawyers and expert witnesses had not worked for free he would be bankrupt.  This is a terrible way to wage war on doctors who are acting in the best interests of their patients.

Dr Aseem Malhotra also described bullying tactics that had been used against him when he was a junior doctor and first becoming publicly engaged in the low carb debate. I have been subjected to this as well.  Professor Iain Broom showed that the proof that low carb diets are superior to low fat diets goes back 40 years.

Dr Zoe Harcombe gave us an explanation of how the calories in- calories out idea just doesn’t add up. The well known formulas about how many calories you need to avoid to lose weight don’t work in practice because of the complex compensatory mechanisms we have to avoid death from starvation.  How you put this over to patients and give them useful strategies for weight loss and blood sugar control was explored by Dr Trudi Deakin.

Food addiction is a real issue, at least it is for the majority of the audience in attendance, who answered the sort of questions usually posed by psychiatrists when they are evaluating drug addiction.  Unlike drugs, food can’t entirely be avoided but ketogenic diets are one tool that can be used to break  unhealthy food dependence. This worked for presenter Dr Jen Unwin who at one point had a really big thing for Caramac bars.  I haven’t seen these in years but they did have a unique taste.

Dr David Unwin showed clearly that fatty liver is easily treatable with a low carb diet.

Dr Joanne McCormick describes how her fortnightly patient group meetings are making change accessible for her patients and how many GPs in the audience could broach the subject in a ten minute consultation.

The website Diabetes.co.uk will shortly be starting up a type one educational programme online that all are welcome to join. I discussed the issue of what blood sugar targets are suitable for different people and how they can achieve this with dietary and insulin adjustment.

Dr David Cavan spoke about reversing diabetes in patients in Bermuda. Although Bermuda looks idyllic the reality is that good quality food is about five times as expensive in the UK as it is all shipped in. Many inhabitants work their socks off but barely cover their costs and cheap sugared drinks and buns are their staple diet. Despite these setbacks he managed to persuade a lot of diabetic patients to ditch the carbs and this had favourable results even after the educational programme had stopped.

A cardiologist Dr Scott Murray described the effects of metabolic syndrome on the heart and really why sticking stents in diseased arteries is too little, too late. He is convinced dietary change is needed to reverse and prevent heart disease. This is the first time I have been told that certain types of heart failure and atrial fibrillation are direct effects of metabolic syndrome on the heart.

The importance of exercise for physical and mental well being was not neglected and we had Dr Zoe Williams describing the great benefits that even the minimum recommended exercise can produce.

Dr Simon Tobin and Tom Williams spoke enthusiastically about Parkrun. This is a free event that runs every Saturday morning in parks all over the world. You can choose to walk, jog or run the course.

Claire McDonnell-Liu is the mother of two children who have greatly benefited from a ketogenic diet. The conditions are urticaria and epilepsy.  Although NHS dieticians do help families with childhood epilepsy who want to use a ketogenic diet, they can’t do it unless drugs have failed, as this is NICE guidance. I wonder how many children would benefit in fit reduction without side effects of drugs if this guidance was changed?

This was a fabulous conference with a positive enthusiastic vibrancy. Thanks to Sam Feltham for organising this event especially since he has become a new dad as well.

The Public Health Collaboration are putting all the talks on You Tube.

I was interviewed about diabetes and women’s health issues for Diabetes.co.uk and Diet Doctor and these interviews and many others will be available for you all to see to improve your lives with diabetes.

 

 

 

Baba Ghanoush – Low Carb Recipes

a picture of aubergines on the Diabetes DietAubergines are fan-flippin-tastic done in a pizza oven. Cut the tops off, half them, score the skin and rub with olive or rapeseed oil, sprinkle with sea salt, wrap in foil and place in the heated oven for fifteen minutes.

Done! The best accompaniment to…well, anything if you love aubergines as much as I do. Traditional matches might be lamb steaks. Or you could wrap up some peppers too and make yourself a big bowl of garlic dip to go with them. Ooh, veggie heaven…

Alternatively, why not try some Baba Ghanoush? Ever heard this aubergine dip referred to as poor man’s caviar? If you’ve tasted the real thing, you’re within your rights to argue the supposed paupers’ option is the much better deal. What would you rather eat—a super silky, lemony-garlicky scented paste you can dip things in? (Fingers if you really must; we won’t judge.) Or fish eggs?

Here’s my version, with an alternative method if you don’t have a pizza oven.

Baba Ghanoush

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 2 medium-sized aubergines
  • 2tbsp tahini paste
  • 4tbsp rapeseed or olive oil
  • 4tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Salt and pepper

Slice the tops off the aubergines, half them lengthways, score the skin and rub with some of the oil. Wrap in foil.

Slice the onion in half too and wrap in foil.

Either cook in a pizza oven (about 250 degrees C) or place in an oven (180 degrees C). The vegetables will take about 15 minutes in the pizza oven. Unwrap from the foil and place in for a few more minutes to char them.

In the oven, allow about 30-40 minutes. You want the aubergines collapsing. Take the foil off for the last five minutes of cooking.

Scrape most of the aubergines from the skin, although you can keep a bit of it for extra smokiness. Place the aubergines, onions and garlic in a food processor with the rest of the oil, the lemon juice and the tahini. Whizz till smooth.

Taste and add salt and pepper as necessary.

The whole dish has about 45g carbs and 18g fibre.

 

Low-Carb Adventures with a Pizza Oven

 

Landed—in our garden, one pizza oven. Given that the pizza doesn’t feature in low-carb diets apart from in a bastardised form, what else can you do in an outdoor oven?

All kinds of things, it turns out. Yes, the pizza oven is a vegetable’s dream destination, the wood smoke turning them into delicious, charred things you want to toss into a warm salad and scoff. We’ve yet to try out a steak in there, but the vision already dances in my head.

Black lines, a crispness to the outside and then meltingly soft pinkness within, anointed with a blue cheese sauce that slowly melts into the crevices of the meat…

But for now? Chicken wings, EB! That’s what you’ll do.

Having hit upon the idea, I decided information overload was the next logical step. I headed for the internet and entered the search terms chicken wings in the pizza oven, low-carb chicken wings, best chicken wings etc., until I had far too many options in front of me.

[Does anyone else do this? I usually flip through hundreds of recipes on line before reverting to my trusted Mary Berry cook book.]

A lot of the recipes for chicken wings featured sugar, honey or flour. I found one that used a third of a cup of flour—not a lot, but I used coconut flour instead.

The coconut flour has sat in my cupboard long enough for it to go out of date. But flip, it’s so pricey I couldn’t face throwing the bag out. Now, I was going to use it. And then toss the rest as the use-by date was…

Embarrassingly long ago. Don’t do this at home, folks!

The true joy of chicken wings is the dip that goes with them. You’ll have gathered from the steak description above, blue cheese features so often in my life it’s got my number on speed dial. There are lots of variations on the blue cheese dip, but one I’ve been making for years is criminally simple—Greek yoghurt, mashed up blue cheese in proportions of about one to two parts. Add pepper if you want to be fancy.

I worried coconut flour would make the drumsticks too coconut-y. I love coconut, but the distinctive flavour doesn’t belong in a lot of places it finds itself these days. (Coconut oil for roast potatoes—I ask you!) Luckily, the spices masked the flavour. But swap the flour for cornflour and cut down the quantity to a quarter cup if you want.

Another swap was drumsticks instead of wings, seeing as Morrison’s had none of the former.

Low-Carb Chicken Drumsticks with

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 10 chicken drumsticks
  • ½ cup coconut flour
  • 1tbsp paprika
  • 1tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1tbsp garlic salt
  • 1tsp cayenne pepper
  • 3tbsp rapeseed oil and one teaspoon butter
  • 250g Greek yoghurt
  • 125g blue cheese, crumbled.

Heat your oven – it needs to be about 180 degree C to cook the drumsticks. Mix the flour, paprika, pepper, garlic salt and cayenne. Add to a plastic bag.

Put half the drumstick in the bag and shake well to coat. Do the same with the rest of the drumsticks.

Line a sturdy baking tray with foil and place the oil and butter on it. Heat in the hot pizza oven for five minutes. Place the drumsticks on it and spread out. Cook in the oven for 30-40 minutes, turn the drumsticks over and cook for another five minutes until crisp.

Combine the yoghurt and blue cheese and serve. You’ll need plenty of napkins as this is one messy dish.

About 10g carbs per portion and 5g fibre.

Next up—the steak. Or baba ghanoush as a pizza oven would make short work of blackening those aubergines…

And finally, does this count as food porn for we low-carbers? Here’s the pizza we made in the oven. My husband’s a pizza gourmet. He promised me this was amazing. Wood smoke does incredible things to food.

Low Carb Go-To Meals

picture of chorizo sausage, the Diabetes Diet
I’d probably eat this Every. Single. Day.

What are your go-to meals? Everyone has them, the ones you eat at least once a week or more. We choose them for their mix of taste and convenience.

When you throw diabetes into the mix, the go-to meals are usually the ones where you know the exact carb count, how much insulin you need to take with them and they’re probably quick and easy.

I go through phases too—eating one dish for weeks and weeks before getting thoroughly bored of it. I add the odd newbie into the mix occasionally, usually picking something I find online. I like simple dishes—a generous helping of protein, two of vegetables and fat in the form of mayo, cheese or nuts thrown in.

My ‘go-to’s’ are:

  • Chopped cooking chorizo fried with mushrooms on top of salad generously dressed with balsamic vinegar and a bit of chopped avocado.
  • Prawns in home-made cocktail sauce with salad leaves and broccoli
  • Low-fat cauliflower cheese with salad leaves and two eggs to give extra protein
  • Any home-made soup with boiled eggs
  • Roasted chicken legs with broccoli or cauliflower and…you guessed it, salad leaves.

For all that we post recipes giving you lots of choices for your low-carb diet, I wonder how many of you are like me? Do you too return to the same meals time after time and are they as simple (boring!) as mine?