But eating low-carb is so expensive!!

I had, in all honesty, intended to write my own post on the cost of going low-carb ( Primal/ Paleo/ Banting – what ever you want to label it!!! ) but then I spotted this article from The Real Meal Revolution and decided they’ve done the job for me 🙂

https://realmealrevolution.com/real-thinking/banting-on-a-budget-is-easy-part-one

N.B. This is a South African website (hence the notion that avocados can be bought cheap!) but all the suggestions still apply in the UK.

Main points:

  • Compare shop prices – MySupermarket is a very quick, if rough, way to do this if you don’t want to go to each website individually.
  • Buy in bulk, but I would add only if you can store it properly. If you can’t store it, or better still share it, then you risk wasting food.
  • Buy from markets – having already checked your store prices (see above) you can decide if it’s cheaper, better quality or you just want to support a local business.
  • Eat eggs every day. Simples.
  • Swap out expensive cuts of meat – just check the prices, it’s a no brainer. A whole chicken is significantly cheaper than pre-cut portions, you get way more bang for your buck and really is not that hard to prepare.
  • Try eating more tinned fish. I had horrible memories of being forced to eat tinned pilchards, with the bones, on toast as a child…. but I tried again with some good quality sardine fillets in olive oil, and a squeeze of lemon juice, and I was converted. Think of those gorgeous tapas dishes you have on holiday. It’s the same thing!

In addition to the myth that it’s too expensive, I get a lot of comments that it must be boring and repetitive with so few options (?)  to choose from….. well we’ve been low carb for over 4 years and I can’t say that’s been the case for us.  In fact I see far more repetition in “traditional” diets e.g. Friday night is pizza, Tuesday is tacos etc.

Along with trying out the odd *new* ingredient from time to time,  or taking inspiration from restaurants, eating seasonal veggies keep things changing.  This can be confusing in the UK since we have access to pretty much everything (mostly imported) all year round, and the prices don’t change all that much either. On our recent trip to South Africa, we saw how little choice their supermarkets have compared to ours – and this is meant to be the country so much of our produce comes from!

The BBC have a good, simple guide here to help you out: http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/seasons

Cheap, high-quality and versatile

No, it’s not my new LinkedIn profile 🙂

Loved this article by Rubies & Radishes on all the ways you can use minced beef. While free-range or organic meat is the ideal, it can be too expensive to use on a regular basis but this it a viable option.

Rubies and Radishes

We normally have at least 2-3 mince based meals a week (that includes breakfasts) and I like to use the delicious minced meat from our local farm shop. It’s actually about the same price per kg as our supermarket, but don’t expect 3for2 for BOGOF offers 🙂

Do androids dream of electric sheep?

I dream of food.

Menu planning is my ‘thing’.  I think about what, and how, I’m going to cook while I’m driving around or getting on with my day, even while I’m already cooking or eating a meal!  I know what’s in my fridge down to the last half lemon and scrap of fresh herbs, and I already know what I’d like to do with them.  I have been told this is not quite normal 🙂 

If you don’t have control freak tendencies and a one-track mind when it comes to food, or just need more ideas, they’ve got a (free) App for that! 

Pepper Plate    ~   iPhone, Windows and Android sheep compatible 🙂

It allows you to collate recipes you see online (Pinterest etc.), plan menus, share with friends and create shopping lists based on your requirements.

I have a low-tech version of this I created in a shared OneNote which indexes my recipes, which I was looking to use to create a similar tool, but decided it was too much like hard work 🙂

Bank holiday weekend

It’s a 4-day weekend for Easter so that means lots of extra special food.  Can’t have Easter without lamb and chocolate treats but that can get a bit expensive, so good to make the most of the time, effort and money. Looks like we timed the braai just right as today it’s rainy, thunder and lightening. The works. 

True to form, at the point you’ve finish cooking the meal the charcoal is just hot enough to cook a small pig. So when the boerwors, pork belly strips and lamb were cooked to perfection we bunged on chicken drums and thighs on the bone to chargrill and get some lovely smoke on. Used a lot of willpower and didn’t eat them yesterday. Got them wrapped and in the fridge ready for lunches (drums) and to be shredded into curry (thighs) so we have low effort meals sorted.  

At this time of year I tend to make big batches of dressed salads; coleslaw, sweet potato salads and roast veg, so we have those ready to pick at for a few days. Bit of extra effort up front, but turns the fridge into a deli-counter which is handy when we don’t know what the weather will be doing.

Also managed to bag a free dessert from leftovers in the fridge! Had a half mango (from making salsa last week), some sliced pineapple (left over from Piña colada chicken recipe), bananas and some fresh coconut chunks. Double-wrapped in foil with a few knobs of unsalted butter and splash of Calvados, and left on the braai while we ate dinner. Would have been good with a dollop of vanilla ice cream but Yummmmmm 🙂

Looking forward to a few days of braai leftovers while pretending it’s still Summer!

DSCN1558

Carnitas! (gluten-free)

I love carnitas. Nothing better than tacos or quesadillas with braised, shredded luscious pork…. drool.

As tacos are off my menu I prefer to take my carnitas on salad (á la Chipotle) or wrapped in gem lettuce leaves, topped with all the usual fajita trimmings. I also have a bit of a weakness for transforming gnarley looking, tough cuts of meat into to something delicious – as with my lamb curry. Enter – Pig Cheeks.

Like many offal cuts it benefits from slow cooking as the collagen breaks down to leave über-tender meat, but there’s no gaminess, weird texture or smell, and no “acquired taste” required.  The finished texture after braising is similar to stewed shin of beef, and the flavour more rich than with pork shoulder cuts. Are you sold yet? If not, the final gem is that it only costs about £7/ kg (from Waitrose, all trimmed, zero extra effort required) and a half dozen cheeks (about 500g) will easily produce enough for 4 people so no need to spend all day cooking a cook a whole pig. DISCLAIMER: unless of course, you want to. In which case please invite me over 🙂

Back to the carnitas. This recipe doesn’t come out very spicy but it can easily be garnished with chillies or hot salsa if it takes your fancy. Always easier to add than to remove…..

Take a large, cast-iron pot and heat a couple of tablespoons of fat. Lard is traditional. Olive oil works fine. Season your 6 pigs cheeks with S+P and brown them in batches over a medium heat, setting aside to catch any resting juices. When the cheeks have all been browned (ooer… ) throw 100g cooking chorizo, chopped, into the pot and allow it to render its spicy paprika oil. When nicely browned, remove from the pot with a slotted spoon and set aside with the cheeks. Now, sauté 1 onion and 1 fennel bulb (both finely sliced) in the paprika infused oil until softened and translucent before adding 2 cloves garlic (minced). Take care not to burn the garlic at this stage. When the raw garlic smell has gone, pour in 200ml cold water to deglaze the bottom of the pot. Then stir in 1 tsp hot, smoked paprika, 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves (or ½ tsp dried thyme) 1 tsp ground cumin and half a cinnamon stick. Return the pigs cheek and chorizo to the pot, along with any resting juices, and combine well. Add enough cold water to cover the meat (approx. 400ml but will depend on size of pot) and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer for 2 hours.

When the time is up, turn off the heat. I like to take this opportunity to pop to the pub for a bit, but you could just crack on with dinner. Your choice. Remove the lid. It may look like meat stew with too much liquid. Be brave. Now stir enthusiastically for a few minutes until the pork breaks down, and you’ll see it soon transforms. If the finished mix is still too wet, just simmer with the lid off for a few minutes. I normally freeze half to two-thirds of the batch and prefer it to have a little extra liquid so when it’s been thawed and reheated I can let it simmer down without drying out.

Serve on lettuce cups with an assortment of guacamole, salsa, soured cream and grated cheese to garnish.

Homemade Nakd bars

Though I much prefer the flavour of Lära bars, Nakd bars are more easily available in the UK. Like Lära bars they have a low number of ingredients, but they’re still pretty pricey for what they are. I’ve checked a few different recipes online and this seems to work for me, and produces a batch of 12 for less than 50p per bar – based on buying small quantities of ingredient from Waitrose.

Fruity Bars:

  • 150g whole, un-blanched almonds
  • 50g pecan halves
  • 12 large, pitted dates (approx. 220g)
  • 100g dried cranberries
  • 40g desiccated coconut
  • 1 tblsp melted coconut oil

Chocolate Orange Bars:

  • 150g whole, un-blanched almonds
  • 50g macadamia nuts
  • 20 large, pitted dates (approx.360g)
  • 40g good quality cocoa powder (Green & Black)
  • Zest or 1 orange, plus 1 tblsp juice

For either variation, pulse the nuts until broken down. You don’t want dust, just make it nice small crumbly bits. Chuck into a large bowl. Pulse the dates a few times before adding the remaining ingredients. You’ll now have a datey dough ball.

Knead together the nuts and fruit until it looks evenly combined. Press into a lined 8″ square tin and bung in the freezer for half an hour to firm up. Turn out onto a board and cut into 12 bars. Ta daa!

If you wrap carefully in greaseproof paper and foil, they can keep in the freezer for a few months so you always have a sweet treat to hand. Otherwise they’ll be ok in the fridge if you intend to eat them quickly but don’t forget, these are still a high sugar snack, even though that sugar is fructose. These should only be consumed in moderation.