Tuesday, 20 March 2018

The Path of Lean Resistance.

Almond milk poached chicken with Puy lentil herb risotto
Does anyone poach any more?
Blimey!!!, the doc says I have to watch the cholesterol.My cholesterol level had shown a distinct movement in the wrong direction.Something,it was intimated (by the doctor,not by me) ,must be done and fast.Whats to be done? All my favourite foods are off the menu and health is the new watchword.Do you have any idea what this means to my style of cooking and eating? I am talking about a man for whom there is no pudding without a good dollop of cream.Strawberries and what? I thought as I grudgingly left the clinic.
As far as I can make out,if you want to lower your bad cholesterol level (LDL) quickly,then you´ll have to live on porridge and prunes (without the cream and brown sugar,thank you very much).On the other hand one month in on the porridge diet I´m beginning to go stir crazy.A more measured approach needs to be taken or I´ll lose my spirtle.Out with the butter and the cream,and the duck fat,and the beef dripping,and the sausages and eggs and bacon of course. And well.... so many other delicious and wonderful favourites.In with those fibre filled pulses,beans and grains,root veg and greens, spinach,broccoli cabbage and kale. Hurrah.In with the omega 3,oily fish,oily fish,oily fish,especially the likes of salmon and mackerel.Chicken without the skin on, no more frying,aaaaaaaggggggh no chips?.Low fat this,no fat that.Oven roasting,braising, baking and boiling and poaching are all alternatives to pan fried and deep fried. Careful choices of oils and of course the odd glass(ONE,three,five,seven or nine) of "Red" wine.Oh no.Anyway cometh the hour, cometh the cook, as I always say, it is not a problem, its a challenge.The reality is I am left to face the long dark night of dietary rectitude on my own.Its down with the reference books and on with the thinking cap, to keep a modicum of pleasure in the life of those I cook for and myself.
In a case like this, necessity is said to be the mother of invention. I certainly hope so when I put it to the test.My Triglycerides  (triggley what? triglynounsatrated? Tyrannosaurus?) are "well high". If I dont act according to doctors orders my liver will be "real bad".That well known proverb, implies that when you are left with no other option but to complete a certain task or live through a certain situation you manage to do so by any means.Another which comes to mind is "Where there is a will there is a way", so modifying my diet in order to lower cholesterol is the brief,and so be it.The  implication is simple, that when you are left with no other option but to complete a certain task or live through a certain situation you manage to do so by any means it.So what can stay and what must go? Ironically, when I wrote in my recent post,("A beurre necessity") the proper ratio of butter to toast is about 2:1, I did not know what was just around the corner.That butter sauces represent some of the highest achievements of culinary science (easy to make too),that the proper way to health and happiness is to eat lots of absolutely everything,well maybe not? I am beginning to feel like I am  being punished for a crime I have not committed.
One of the first things that came to mind was that kitchen staple - Ahhh o famoso molho béchamel!!!!.Bechamel sauce (or Sauce Béchamel if you are French) is one of those workhorses in the kitchen we tend to take for granted, until life throws a monkey-wrench into the works … like having to transition to a low cholesterol diet!Armed with cartons of oat milk, almond milk and rice milk( none of which have to contain the dreaded soy) I have all my options for sweet and savoury covered.
Remember when eggs and butter were deemed to be bad for you because they could raise your cholesterol levels? Cholesterol only became a household term in the 1960s.Who was the killjoy who told us eggs are thought to be taboo when it comes to the topic of cholesterol.Well a little bit of good news, eating eggs in moderation, about 4-6 eggs per week, is acceptable, even for people with high cholesterol.Research has shown that people who eat eggs in moderation don’t show an increase in their cholesterol levels compared to those who eliminate eggs completely from their diet.There is a key word through all this "moderation."Don’t start piling on the three-egg omelettes and if you’re still worried about eating eggs, consider egg whites alone. They’re still loaded with protein, but without so much cholesterol -Par eggscellence.
"One important point to keep in mind: How you prepare your food is almost as important as which type of food you eat.It's always best to broil, grill, or steam foods."
So far I have assembled a new portfolio of dishes made with ingredients I love.With the help of multi grain breads I can make butterless sandwiches and bruschettas with avocado, mushrooms and aubergines.If you are looking for ideas on how to incorporate mushrooms into your cholesterol-lowering diet, there are plenty of ways to add them to appetizers.Im going nuts and bananas about my new plan.I love them both and am incorporating them amicably into the regime.Oh well all is not lost,I must say that you learn some interesting things along the way.Brazil nuts are one of my favourite snacks, and I’ve just discovered a reason to eat more of them. A single ‘dose’ of just 4 Brazil nuts can significantly improve cholesterol balance – an effect that starts within 6 hours and lasts for at least 30 days!
Anyway here you will find some of the fruits of my labours.I won´t make any claims for purity in these matters.As you will see there is the odd bit of slippage here and there,but they´re a step in the right direction.At least.I hope so. It’s like me insisting that I will be beach-body ready by the summer while maintaining my cast-iron commitment to doing no exercise and eating what I want. Solomon himself could not resolve that one.
A few tips to start......
Bananas,nuts,strawberries ,cherries
Potatoes are fine just dont peel them
Cook more with sweet potato
When it comes to baking replace butter with olive oil
Oily fish at least twice a week
Select leaner cuts of meat and smaller portions
lean beef: chuck, sirloin or loin
lean pork cuts: the tenderloin or loin chop
lamb: if you must, cuts from the leg, arm and loin
ground beef that contains 90 percent or higher lean meat

Almond milk poached chicken 
with Puy lentil herb risotto (main picture)
 Serves 2
500ml almond milk
2 bay leaves
3 spring onions, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon sea salt flakes
2 x 220g chicken breast fillets, trimmed
1/2 cup (140g) natural Greek-style yoghurt
1/8 cup (30ml) extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and cracked black pepper
1/4 cup (80g) smoked almonds, chopped
Place the almond milk, bay, onion and salt in a large deep-sided frying pan over high heat and bring to the boil. Add the chicken, reduce heat to low and cook, covered, for 12–15 minutes or until cooked through. Remove chicken from the pan and set aside to cool. Strain the poaching liquid, reserving ¼ cup (60ml). Shred chicken and place in a large bowl with reserved liquid while you cook the risotto Place the yoghurt, oil, salt and pepper in a small bowl and mix to combine. Add the chicken and toss to combine. Divide the risotto among two plates,and top with the chicken and almonds. Serves 4.
FOR THE RISOTTO
3 cloves garlic

1 medium onion finely chopped
extra virgin olive oil
35 g (1.5 oz )risotto rice
35 g (1.5 oz puy lentils
small bunch of parsley with stalks, coarsely chopped
Vegetable stock
2 handfuls baby spinach leaves
In a pan sautée the garlic and onion in some olive oil,for about two minutes until transparent.Add the rice and lentils and sautée again until nicely coated.Add the parsley stalks and sufficient stock to cover by about 3cms.Bring to boil,then reduce heat, cover and simmer gently for 20-25 minutes until the lentils are tender,Check from time to time 
for the moisture content and if getting dry add some more stock.Stir in the chopped spinach and allow to wilt before serving.

Chicken satay
1 shallot, peeled and chopped
2 cloves of garlic,peeled and crushed
small thumb of ginger peeled and grated
1 stem lemongrass,shredded
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 small hot piri piri chillies,finely chopped
1 teaspoon good quality curry powder
150g peanut or almond butter
3 heaped tbsp chopped fresh coriander
tsp sugar

Soften and very lightly brown the chopped shallot,garlic,ginger and lemongrass in the oil over a moderate heat.Stir in the chillies and curry powder and continue cooking for a couple of minutes.Add the nut butter, 250ml water and bring to the boil.Season with coriander and sugar to taste.Serve as a dipping sauce for chicken skewers.


Lets get ready to crumble
Is it a cake? Is it a pudding,no its.....
Apricot crumble cake
I was determined to work the new wonderdrug oatmeal in somehow.The classic Atholl Brose or Cranachan were the front runners,but they consist largely of cream alas.Apples seemed the natural candidate to be paired with oatmeal for a crumble,but then I stumbled upon the commander in chief of comfort food, Nigel Slaters apricot crumble cake.“Ooh I say!”, with a bit of adjustment swapping flour in the mix for olive oil and meddling with the topping I was on to something that would lower those Triglycerides
 It’s a naughtier version of apple crumble, but, somehow, refreshingly different.It's worth baking for the smell alone!  Buttery, almondy, cakeyness.I have convinced myself that it is healthy eating (well I can,can´t I?). It goes down very well with a pot of tea of a rainy afternoon.
250g dried apricots
3/4 cup olive oil
175g golden caster sugar
2 eggs
80g ground almonds
175g self-raising flour
A pinch ground cinnamon
A few drops vanilla extract

For the crumble
100g plain flour
75g butter
2tbsp demerara sugar
3tbsp jumbo oats
2tbsp flaked almonds
A little cinnamon and extra demerara
Sugar for the crust, and perhaps a little icing sugar to finish

Method
Preheat the oven to 160˚C/gas mark 3. Line the base of a 22cm round cake tin with baking parchment. Put the apricots in a saucepan, cover with water and bring to the boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for 20 minutes, then turn off the heat and leave them to cool a little.

Beat the eggs and sugar in a large bowl until the sugar is completely dissolved.
Add the lemon zest and pinch of salt.Add the olive oil little by little, mixing well after each addition.
Fold in the ground almonds, flour and cinnamon, then add the vanilla extract. Scrape the mixture into the tin and smooth the surface.
Drain the apricots and add them to the top of the cake mixture. Make the crumble topping: blitz the flour and butter to crumbs in a food processor, then add the demerara sugar, oats and flaked almonds and mix lightly. Remove the food processor bowl from the stand and add a few drops of water. Shake the bowl a little-or run a fork through the mixture-so that some of the crumbs stick together like small pebbles. This will give a more interesting mix of textures.
Scatter this loosely over the cake, followed by a pinch of cinnamon and a little more demerara. Bake for about an hour, checking for doneness with a skewer; it should come out clean.
Remove the cake from the oven and set aside. Dust with a little icing sugar if you wish and slice as required. The cake will keep well for three or four days.

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