Tag Archives: low carb

Quick and Easy Fish Pie

Like most people who care about good food, I’m a vocal (and now digital!) advocate of keeping food simple and relying on the quality of the ingredients. Fish pie is one of those dishes that can easily be overcomplicated, and so be daunting to make. This version takes little preparation and will be at the table in under an hour.

Ingredients

half a swede, a couple of parsnips or a celeriac

half a head of cauliflower

some mild cheddar cheese

a knob of butter

2 fillets of smoked haddock (or any fish you fancy or need to use up)

2 handfuls of raw prawns (shellfish such as mussels or clams are good too)

300ml double cream

a good handful of chopped flat leaf parsley (if I don’t have parsley I use spinach or rocket)

a pinch of nutmeg

salt and pepper

 

Boil the swede, parsnip or celeriac in salted water and steam the cauliflower until soft enough to mash (15-20 minutes). Steaming the cauliflower prevents it from making the mash watery. Mash the cooked vegetables (I use an electric hand blender), adding the butter, cheese, a grinding of pepper and a pinch of salt.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200C. Cut the fish into bite sized pieces (don’t waste the skin!) and place in an oven dish.I make this recipe for two and use two individual oven-proof oval dishes. Scatter a the prawns over the fish and finish with the chopped parsley. Mix the fish, prawns and parsley a little then pour over the cream. Grate a dusting of nutmeg over the top.

Top with the slightly cooled mash, smooth and fork to create peaks that will brown in the oven. Dot some butter over the top of the mash. Put the dish or dishes in the centre of the oven and cook for 20-30 minutes until the cream is bubbling and the mash has browned to your liking.

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Crispy Fish Skin

Primal humans ate as much of a beast as they could, cooking and processing food to make it easier to digest possibly even further back into our evolutionary history than we have traditionally thought. Some cultures still do, famously the Chinese. I have always been an experimental carnivore and relish scoffing new and exciting animals. I have often wandered around zoos contemplating the taste of one animal or another imagining I’m following in Darwin’s footsteps.

Preparing some smoked haddock for a fish pie this evening, I caught myself walking to the bin with their incredibly fragrant skins, skins with a good bit of flesh still attached. It occurred to me that I should freeze them for stock. An even better thought then popped into my head: ‘Fried, crispy fish skin’. Crispy fish skin is often seen on the menus of swanky restaurants, and for a good reason. As well as being delicious, it’s profitable due to the usual place fish skins end up. The bin.

I snapped the bin lid closed and in 10 minutes, with the help of some hot olive oil and a sprinkling of sea salt, transformed the skins into a fantastic cook’s treat.

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I cut the skins into squarish pieces of about 2 inches and put about half an inch of oil into a pan, heated it and dropped the skins in. They shrivelled up when they hit the oil, but relaxed out again after a few seconds. They fried for a minute or two in the oil, until golden, and then drained on a piece of kitchen paper and sprinkled with some sea salt flakes.

Potato crisps are one of my cheat foods. I’m not talking about the tasteless, uniformly beige things, laden with overpowering flavouring, but a good, earthy bag of thicker cut artisan crisps. The fish skin scratched the same itch I have for crisps and qualifies as primal food. They are like fishy pork scratchings. Crunch!

If you are trying to find me tomorrow, I’ll be at the fish market hunter-gathering in the bins.

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Primal Cycling Food

Flapjacks, bananas, gels and energy bars are the common provisions that cyclists will stuff in the pockets of their cycling jerseys to sustain themselves on longer rides. Having seen the low-carb light, I try to pack some good fat to keep me going when I feel like I need an energy hit. I’ve noticed that I now need much less food before, during and after riding. Pre-primal I’d get really hungry during some rides and if I ran out of food I’d spend the last few miles fantasising about gorging myself, pedalling squares and bonking out. As soon as I hopped off the bike I’d have an insatiable appetite, sometimes for over 48 hours after the ride.

One of the first things that I noticed post-primal was that I  didn’t feel as hungry during rides, even during fasted rides. I also tend to eat about the same amount on 100 mile cycling days as 0 mile cycling days. This is probably because my body has adapted from burning glucose and glycogen and is an efficient fat burning machine. Having said all that I do take food with me on long rides, particularly as it is hard to get good low-carb primal food at some café stops and many feed stations at cycling events.

Here are the usual things that I pack:

Nuts

I like macadamia nuts, almonds, pecans and brazil nuts. Macadamia nuts are probably my favourite as they pack a hefty fat punch and I find them satisfying. I sometimes put in some roasted, salted nuts as they are tasty and can replace salt lost through sweat.

Eggs

A couple of boiled eggs at the café stop on my club run are usually enough to sate my hunger.

Sausages

Polish smoked kabanos (check the labels, some contain sugar) and cooked 100% pork bangers (again, check the labels for rusk or crumb) can be wrapped in cling-film and stuffed in the back pocket easily.

Energy bars

I make my energy bars from fat (coconut oil or butter), ground almonds or coconut flour and other additions that I find in my store cupboard such as dark chocolate, chopped nuts, espresso or dried fruit. Coconut oil imparts a sweet taste and means I usually only add a dash of maple syrup or honey to my bars. I’ve tweaked a couple of recipes I found on the internet (here and here) and will post my take on the recipe later.

Chocolate

A few squares of nice 70%+, dark choccy are good for energy and to lift your mood while tackling those killer hills.

Lemon/lime drink

Hydration is obviously important, particularly on hot days. I used to pop low-cal flavoured tablets into my bidons, but hated the fact they contain a list of non-primal additives and sweeteners. I now concoct my isotonic drinks with the juice of half a lime or lemon and a small pinch of salt in my water bottles.

Cheese

I sometimes throw some Babybels into my jersey pocket. They fit nicely and are easy enough to unwrap whilst spinning along.

Jerky/Biltong

I am the proud recent owner of a food dehydrator. My home-made biltong is very tasty and will be the subject of a later blog. Beware shop bought jerky or biltong; it usually has lots of additives and a good hit of sugar. I pack a strip as it’s nice to chew away at while pedalling along and I can pretend I’m a cowboy.

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Primal Cherry Crumble and Custard

Ahh, crumble. Homely, satisfying and great for a January treat. I’d been thinking about making a primal crumble with custard for a while and suddenly had the inspiration to give it a go.

I was happy with my effort; sweet/tart cherries, crumbly topping and creamy custard. Any other frozen berries would be good and gathered blackberries would be sublime. I split the crumbles into two separate bowls so scale up or down as required.

Ingredients

2 x handfuls frozen, unsweetened cherries
2 x handfuls ground almonds
½ tablespoon maple syrup or honey
2 tablespoons butter
Around 10 roughly chopped macadamia nuts (pecans or walnuts would be good for a ‘nuttier’ flavour)

1 small pot of thick cream
2 egg yolks
Vanilla extract or vanilla pod

1. Put the oven on to heat at around 180C.

2. In a mixing bowl, mix the almond flour and chopped nuts. Put the butter and maple syrup into the bowl and twiddle the mixture between your fingers to create a crumble. It’s not quite the same consistency as when using flour and my mixture had quite a few bigger blobs of buttery almond flour, so I cut the amount down a little for this recipe. This didn’t really affect the final crumble ‘mouth-feel’.

3. Put a handful of the cherries into an oven proof bowl and cover with a layer or the crumble mixture. Place in the centre of the oven for about 20 minutes until the crumble has browned a little and the cherries have defrosted, cooked and gone a little syrupy.

4. Meanwhile, put the cream into a small pan with the scraped vanilla seeds or extract and heat gently. Whisk in the egg yolks and keep whisking until the custard is thicker in texture. Be careful here as it’s easy to heat too fast and scramble your eggs. If this happens, add a little water to cool the mixture down a bit and whisk harder. Turn the heat off when the custard goes as custardy as you like it.

5. Pour the custard on top and tuck in!

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