I’ve had a flurry of emails from readers since I featured three low-carbohydrate recipes on this blog in recent months, all from people who’ve been inspired by South African sports scientist Professor Tim Noakes’ recent conversion to a low-carb eating plan.
|My version of Indonesian Gado-Gado (recipe below)|
People on this regime seem to struggle most with finding interesting, satisfying vegetable dishes. ‘It’s so difficult to enjoy a dinner without potatoes, rice or pasta,’ one person told me. ‘I need something more exciting than a pile of steamed vegetables.’
I reckon that if you embark on a restrictive eating plan like this, possibly as a long-term lifestyle choice, you definitely need some excitement on your plate. And what better way to pleasure your brain’s food-centre than to introduce thrilling flavours that punch you in the tastebuds and deaden any residual cravings for sugar and starch?
So: I’ve put together this list of 35 of my original low-carb recipes, and I hope you find them useful and inspiring.
Note: I’m not affiliated in any way with Professor Noakes, nor am I endorsing his eating plan, which remains contentious.
However, I find myself drifting closer and closer to its general principles because I love eating this way. I’ve never been a great fan of starchy, sugary things anyway, and every time I’ve embarked on a low-carb diet I’ve shed kilos quickly. However, I freely admit that I’ve put some of the lard on again: it’s difficult to sustain this diet for more than a month at a time, when thunderous cravings for mashed potatoes, wine gums (oh, okay, wine) and chocolate set in.
If you’d like to know more about how to follow this low-carb lifestyle, I can recommend this article by Professor Noakes.
Postscript, 8 February 2014: I have lost 22 kg in four months, mostly by following a Noakes-style low-carb regime. But more about that in a future blogpost.
Postscript, 23 March 2014: Here is the future blogpost I mentioned above: Hello diabetes, and how I have had to adjust my cooking style
Cottage Cheese, Herb and Olive Oil Smothering Dip A useful, all-purpose, very garlicky cold sauce that packs a powerful flavour punch. Pour it all over whatever you’re eating hot, and the warmth of the chicken, fish, steak or veggies will release the aromatic flavours of garlic, herbs and olive oil. I always keep a lidded plastic container of this in my fridge and use it in place of mayonnaise.
|Cottage Cheese, Herb and Olive Oil Smothering Dip|
|Bean, tomato & proscuitto salad|
Oven-Roasted Ratatouille I make a huge tray of this at least once a week in summer, because everyone in my family loves it hot and topped with grated Parmesan. It also makes brilliant leftovers: enjoy it cold, with shavings of Parmesan or cubes of feta cheese or shredded fresh basil. Or whizz it up with some vegetable stock to make a soup or a sauce for pasta.
| My Lemony Green Beans with Aïoli. Image by Michael Le Grange
© Random House Struik 2012. Bowl by David Walters.
Lemony Green Beans with Frizzled Prosciutto, Fried Breadcrumbs & Aïoli Strictly speaking, you should leave out the fried breadcrumbs if you’re on a low-carb diet. In the picture above, I’ve used toasted flaked almonds instead of breadcrumbs. This is a dreamy combination and one of my family’s favourites.
Marinated Mushrooms with Green Beans and Feta I first learned how to make marinated mushrooms when I was twelve years old, and here I’ve adapted the recipe to bulk it out with squeaky-fresh green beans and feta cheese.
Warm Marinated Olives with Lime, Thyme and Chilli You won’t be able to serve this with warm crusty rolls, as I’ve suggested in the recipe, but you can add cubed feta and halved cherry tomatoes just before you serve it to create a flavour-crammed starter or snack for a summer meal.
Braised Baby Leeks with Halloumi ‘Popcorn’ An adventurous dish with knock-out flavours and textures. Leave the out the bread crumbs if you’re on a strict low-carb regime.
Cauliflower Salad with Crisp-Fried Chorizo Sausage and a Warm Lemon Dressing An easy tapas-style dish with sensational flavours and textures: shaved raw cauliflower with crumbled fried chorizo, crisp breadcrumbs, a whisper of garlic and a warm lemony olive-oil dressing. Leave out the breadcrumbs if you’re evangelical about this diet.
|Make an open sandwich using a grilled chicken breast as a base, or pack the filling
between two breasts and secure with a skewer.
Low-Carb Mediterranean Chicken ‘Sandwich’ I used grilled chicken breasts instead of bread slices to create this nutrient-packed lunch dish, which is packed with lovely sunny ingredients including feta, scorched tomatoes, olives, artichokes and rocket.
Spiced Baked Aubergines with Yoghurt A plain dish with simple flavours, but you’ll love it if you’re a big fan of aubergines.
|Pea & Pea-Shoot Salad with Bacon & Eggs|
Pea and Pea-Shoot Salad with Bacon and Eggs Peas do contain some carbohydrates, but this lovely warm-and-cold dish contains just half a cup of them per serving, so I figure that’s permissible If you can’t find pea shoots, use fresh rocket, mustard greens, spinach or bok choy.
Halloumi and Beef Carpaccio Salad with Fried Capers The ultimate in indulgence when it comes to a low-carb salad, in my opinion: crisp-fried halloumi cheese, thin slices of seared beef fillet and crunchy fried capers on a bed of peppery rocket. Here’s another, similar salad: Halloumi Salad with Lemon-Caper Dressing.
Double-Egged Crustless Spinach & Bacon Tart It’s difficult to believe that such a substantial tart contains very few carbs, but there is not a speck of flour, cornflour or added sugar in this easy recipe.
|Warm Duck Salad (see below)|
Warm Duck Salad with Crackly-Topped Beetroot Duck is very expensive, but you can stretch two breasts between four mouths in this gorgeous salad. You’ll need to leave out the dried cranberries if you’re on a strict regime. See my comments about the glycemic load of beetroot below.
Roast Baby Aubergines with Rocket and Peppered Cream Cheese,and a Tahini Dressing A scattering of toasted pumpkin seeds gives this salad a satisfying crunch and a good nutritional kick in the pants: they, along with the sesame seeds in the tahini dressing, are among the most wholesome plant foods on earth, in my view. Here’s a similar recipe: Warm Grilled Aubergine Slices with Chilli and Pesto
Slow-Cooked Courgettes & Cherry Tomatoes with Melty Feta A lovely, bright dish that’s good both hot or cold. The half-teaspoon of sugar is there to counteract the acidity of the tomatoes, but you can leave it out and add a tiny pinch of bicarbonate of soda instead.
|Salad of Fennel, Apple & Smoked Mackerel|
‘Carpaccio’ of Kohlrabi with Radishes and Blue Cheese Adapted from a dish in Anton Mosimann’s 1991 book Naturally, this is a most unusual starter with its combination of creamy blue cheese, crisp, paper-thin kohlrabi and peppery radish.
Salad of Shaved Baby Fennel, Apple and Smoked Mackerel If you’ve never been a fan of fennel, do try it raw in this salad, which is wonderfully nutritious, containing as it does oily fish. You’ll need to leave the chilli-dusted croutons out of the recipe, though.
Roast Beef Fillet with Creamy Celeriac-and-Horseradish-Cream Salad Celeriac isn’t very starchy, which makes it a great substitute for potatoes. Here, I’ve combined it with a creamy remoulade-style dressing to make a cool topping for roast fillet.
Roast Ratatouille Soup with Basil Mayonnaise This glorious brick-red soup, one of my favourite recipes, contains neither starchy veggies nor any flour or similar thickening agent. It’s easy to make, and tastes even better the day after.
|Salmon, Beetroot & Rocket Salad|
Low-Carb Salmon, Beetroot and Rocket Salad This is a simple salad, but so satisfying: the combination of roasted beetroot, peppery rocket, meltingly tender flakes of salmon and little bursts of tart sweetness from the pomegranate seeds makes me want to eat it every day. Beetroot has a moderately high glycemic index value of 64, but its glycemic load is only five.
My Aunt’s Avocado Mousse I see that Professor Noakes includes avocados on his list of low-carb foods, so I bring you this retrolicious dish: a wobbly, creamy mousse of the palest green, pepped up with a subtle crunch of fresh chives.
|Michael Le Grange’s photograph of my Peri Peri Calamari with
Chouriço Sausage. Image © Random House Struik 2012.
Peri Peri Calamari with Chouriço Sausage Peri-peri is one of South Africa’s favourite flavours. Feel free to add more fresh chillies if you appreciate a blisteringly hot sauce. (This recipe is taken from my cookbook Scrumptious Food For Family and Friends.)
Calamari Salad with Thyme, Lemon, Chilli and Olives This light, summery seafood salad, sparked with lemon juice, red chilli and fresh herbs, takes just ten minutes to make and keeps very well in the fridge for three to four days.
|My version of Gado-Gado. You’ll have to forego the potatoes.|
Gado-Gado This delicious and unusual dish of cooked vegetables, crisp salad ingredients and boiled eggs smothered with a piping-hot, spicy peanut sauce is my take on Gado-Gado, a dish popular all over Indonesia. Peanuts have a very low glycemic index value, but please leave the boiled new potatoes out of this recipe!
Tomatoes Baked with Garlic Butter and Cream A sinfully rich dish because it’s loaded with fat, but it’s low in carbs, and brilliant as a special treat with bacon and eggs.
Asparagus with Egg Mimosa, Butter and Breadcrumbs Based on a classic ‘Polonaise’ dressing, this topping may be old fashioned, but it’s a time-tested classic for good reason. Cooked, sieved egg yolks are called ‘mimosa’ because they resemble the fluffy yellow flowers of the plant of the same name. The bad news: you’ll have to leave out the breadcrumbs. (Another recipe from my cookbook.)
Rainbow Trout en Papillote with Lemon and Herbs Light, bright and singing with clean flavours, this is a dish that I make often, using a variety of fresh, sustainable seafood: farmed trout, angelfish, yellowtail, snoek and black mussels.
Easy Chicken, Feta and Bacon Roll-Ups in a Tomato and Rosemary Sauce Chicken breast fillets stuffed with feta, garlic and sage, rolled in bacon, crisped in a hot pan and then simmered in a rich tomato sauce. A bit fiddly, but well worth the effort if you’re cooking for a special occasion.
My Aunt Gilly’s Egg ‘Bavarois’ Okay, you’ll have to leave out the sweet-chilli sauce topping. But this delicate, old-fashioned buffet dish, lightly jellied and subtly flavoured with bay leaves, onion, cloves and nutmeg, is delicious with small, snappy gherkins and other pickles.
|Seared Tuna with a Tomato & Caper Dressing|
Seared Tuna with a Burnt Tomato & Caper Dressing This is an easy and interesting dish starring just a few beautiful ingredients – spanking-fresh tuna, olive oil, capers, baby herb leaves and Rosa tomatoes at the peak of their ripeness.