Sunday 24 May 2009

Low-carb eating...

Maria's words...or the beginning of the week must have struck home, and the Technical Department has the bit firmly between his teeth on the weight-loss front. Rather depressingly, there's mention of no pasta or risotto (for which also read 'nor pastry'.......nor potatoes) for several months to come. Which wasn't entirely what I had in mind...

Starters and main courses are actually quite easy on a low-carb regime. Shellfish in any form for starters: moules marinières; crayfish tail salad; prawns in cream & vermouth; crab tart (phyllo pastry shell, naturally); scallops - either as they are, in various forms, or as a mousseline. Or chicken livers, with wild mushrooms in a crisp tart shell, or lightly sautéed with garlic to go on top of a salad; or smoked salmon, either tiède, on a soubise of onion and basil, or as a timbale, with basil and celery and a gazpacho dressing....the list is fairly long.
Main courses are pretty straightforward: meat, fish and poultry are pretty much ok, in whatever form they're cooked, as long as there's nothing en crôute. Vegetables are a bit more demanding, but not much: parsnips are out, as are potatoes; carrots should be avoided.....tomatoes and peppers are surprisingly low in carbs, and as long as you stick to the 'greener' end of the vegetable spectrum, then it's pretty much ok (asparagus, mange tout, beans, broccoli - anything like that is fine). Steamed and mashed broccoli or cauliflower make surprisingly good substitutes for mashed potato.

Desserts, however, require a lot more thought. IMHO, custard-type fillings don't work very well with phyllo pastry shells - which is the only kind of pastry really permissible if you're being serious about being low carb (the TD weakened at this point, and began to mutter about "if it's rolled really thin, then shortcrust surely would be ok, if it's just for individual tarts" ; I don't think so....not if we're taking this seriously...sounds like the thin end of the wedge to me...and it wasn't my choice, after all, to veto pasta and risotto!). I suppose, if one really hungers for the taste of a chocolate or lemon tart, then there's always the option of baking the filling inside a ramekin, and foregoing the pastry - but I suspect it would be a rather dismal substitute for the real thing. So, without shortcrust or puff pastry in evidence, it's apple, pear, cherry, peach, and blueberry tarts...and as long as the phyllo shell also contains a layer of slivered almonds, then I think you can just about get away with a filling of flavoured crème pâtissière, topped with a layer of fresh strawberries or raspberries. And as far as any creamy desserts are concerned, it's a question of working out which ones require sugar in order for the texture to work properly (in which case, they're off the list) and which ones will be fine with just Splenda instead. So, bavarois, semifreddo and panna cotta are 'in', but ice creams and sorbets are definitely 'out'.

I'm sure there will be more on this in due course; I hope it doesn't become tedious...

Tonight's dinner:

Unmoulded Mousse of Celeriac, with a Mustard Cream Sauce.

Chicken Breasts stuffed with Emmental, in Sage & Vermouth; Celery, braised in Butter.

Blueberry and Vanilla Tarts.

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