I eat a ‘Paleo’ diet which is 100% grain free. The foundation of this type of nutritional lifestyle advocates a diet high in healthy FAT and protein (and LOADS of veggies of course!) and as low as possible in SUGAR. Were you aware that all grains (from pasta, noodles and rice to breads and even supposedly ‘healthy’ grains like quinoa and buckwheat) are broken down by the body as SUGAR, much in the same way as the deadly white stuff is? Did you know that a bowl of white rice has 97% of the sugar content of granulated sugar once metabolised in the body? No, neither did I! Complete shocker isn’t it?! I almost choked on my ricecake when I heard this… Needless to say I haven’t eaten a ricecake since, these days it’s avocadoes all the way. You can read all about the hidden sugars in grains and fruit here in my article ‘Can a Steak Really be Healthier for you than a Carrot? The Fat vs. Sugar Debate‘ where I explore the topic in great detail.
But then, I hear you ask- what on earth will I eat with my curries? and how am I supposed to eat Asian inspired dishes? and how on earth can you eat Italian without pasta or pizza?! Well, I’m going to tell you. It was a revelation for me and my culinary inventiveness has since mushroomed.
It means getting REALLY inventive with carb alternatives, and you can have a lot of FUN with this. It’s a great way to incorporate more veg into your diet, and also an excellent way of adding sizable raw elements to your dishes, which is great, the closer a food is to its natural state when consumed, the more packed full of nutrients it’s going to be. Below are some of my favourite ludicrously healthy yet ludicrously tasty recipes where I have cut the carbs and instead substitute some cleverly prepared vegetables: Broccoli Rice, Cauliflower Rice, Courgette and Squash Pasta, Cucumber Noodles, Courgette and Carrot Noodles, Cauliflower Cous Cous and Cauliflower Pizza Base. Pretty exciting, no? Arm yourself with a food processor and a Spiralizer (my new favourite thing in the world) and you are going to rock the shop. These are not totally essential- a grater and a wide-blade veg peeler/julienne peeler will also do the trick, just not as speedily and efficiently, and your spirals won’t be as spirally…
Lentil Dhal and Cauliflower Rice
For the Rice: 1/2 small cauliflower per person
For the Dhal: Serves 2/3:
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 cup red lentils
2 gloves garlic
thumb of fresh ginger
Spices: (1/4 tsp mustard seeds, 1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds, 1/4 tsp cumin seeds, 1/2 tsp turmeric, 1 bay leaf, 1 tsp curry powder, wee pinch paprika, wee pinch cinnamon).
2/3 cups water
Tin of coconut milk or bar of creamed coconut.
Fresh coriander to garnish.
To make the Cauliflower Rice, chop the cauliflower into florets and put them through the food processor on the ‘grater’ setting- so you will need to feed them through from the top. (If you don’t have a food processor, hand grate it).
To make the Dhal: finely dice your onion and your garlic and ginger (or use a mincer for these if you wish)
Heat the coconut oil in a biggish heavy based pan- better than a wok for this. Once hot, chuck in a couple of mustard seeds (if it’s hot enough they should ‘pop’) when it is hot enough add the remaining mustard seeds, the fenugreek seeds and the cumin seeds.
Add the onions and sweat for a couple of minutes followed by the garlic and ginger and sweat for another minute or so. Then add a touch of water to create a smooth, slightly liquidy texture and add in the other spices- the curry powder, paprika, coriander, cinnamon, the bay leaf.
Rinse your lentils and then stir them in, and pour in two cups of water. Season generously with salt and pepper. Keep on a medium heat to cook the lentils, stir frequently, keep an eye on it and add more water whenever necessary (lentils really absorb water and have a tendency to stick to the bottom of the pan if left unattended). Once the lentils are cooking well you can turn it down to a low simmer.
It’s really quick, should be done in 15 minutes or so, 20 max. Lastly, grate a generous chunk of your creamed coconut bar and stir in. 1/4 of a bar perhaps? Maybe more, it depends how creamy you want it. Or add your tin of coconut milk. Stir in half the can and taste and decide if you want it to be more creamy, and if so, add the rest. Fat is GOOD remember!
To heat the cauliflower rice to serve: heat a tsp of coconut oil in a pan, add the cauliflower, stir, pop a tiny bit of boiling water in there and stick a lid on to steam for literally a minute. Add salt and pepper, and that’s it done.
Serve your Cauliflower Rice and Dhal with a squeeze of lemon juice on top, or lemon wedge on the side, and fresh coriander sprinkled over the top.
Pork Meatballs with Courgette and Carrot Noodles
For the Noodles: 1 carrot and 1 courgette per person
1 tbsp Coconut oil
To stir fry the Noodles: thumb fresh ginger, 2 cloves garlic, 3 spring onion, 1 red chilli as a base and optional extra vegetables (any excuse!) use a combination of some of the following: tender stem broccoli, mangetout, sugar snap peas, baby sweetcorn, pak choi…
For the Meatballs: Serves 2/3
1 pack Pork Mince (around 400g)
3 Spring onions
1 clove garlic
1/2 tsp ground ginger
Pinch of chilli flakes or chilli powder
Salt and Pepper
A little bit of flour to shape the meatballs
To Serve: Toasted sesame oil and you could add some sesame seeds (normal or black), fresh coriander, fresh lime or lemon juice, soya sauce (if you tolerate soya well) Tamari if gluten free. Or if you are soya intolerant you could get your hands on a bottle of ‘coconut aminos’ if you wanted to.
Pre-heat your oven to 200 degrees Celsius.
To make the meatballs, finely chop the spring onions and garlic and empty the pork mince into a big bowl. Mix altogether (use your hands) and add the egg (beaten) and the ground ginger/chilli and season generously with salt and pepper.
Shape into meatballs, each about the size of a ping pong ball. You will probably want to use a little bit of flour on your hands to help form these (use whatever you can tolerate but as a grain free advocate I would plump for using a small amount of coconut flour or gram (chickpea) flour over buckwheat, rice or wheat flours, but you can use anything).
Bake on a tray in the oven for 25 to 30 mins. They’ll be ready when they are going slightly golden. Some of the egg might seep out, doesn’t look that pretty but they won’t taste any less delicious.
While your meatballs are baking prepare your noodles: SPIRALIZE the carrots and courgettes if you have your trusty gadget to hand. Peel the carrots first.
If not, use your wide-blade peeler and peel along the lengths of the carrots and courgette to create thick noodles.
If these are going to be sitting around for a while whilst I am cooking I might put them in a bowl of cold water to keep them fresh.
Once your meatballs have been in for 15 mins or so get your wok ready.
Heat 1 tbsp coconut oil and add roughly bashed and 3 chopped spring onions, 1 chopped red chilli, 2 cloves of chopped garlic and a thumb of ginger and sautee.
You can then add your noodles IF you are not going for the ‘extra veg’ option.
If you ARE going ‘extra veg’ leave your noodles for now and add in your chosen veg- a few broccoli stems, a handful of sugar snap peas and sliced baby corn, pak choi… whatever your heart desires. Stir fry for a few mins on a high heat. I like to put in a small amount of boiling water and stick a lid on (or a chopping board over the top) and allow the veg to steam slightly. The less time spent cooking these the better, to keep the bright colour, and all the nutrients in.
Then add in your carrot/courgette noodles, heat them through, they need under a minute. Coat with toasted sesame oil, a generous squeeze of lime juice and soya/tamari/coconut aminos (all optional).
Serve the noodles with the meatballs on top and garnish with sesame seeds, and fresh corainder if you wish.
Pan Fried Tuna Steak with Cucumber Sesame Noodles and a Fried Egg
1 Tuna steak per person
1 Cucumber per person
1 Egg per person
A couple of chopped spring onions
Toasted Sesame oil
Sesame seeds (and if you want to be fancy, black sesame seeds)
Juice of 1 Lime.
Really simple. Spiralize your cucumber noodles and put in serving bowls (or finely chop into thin strips/julienne/peel). Fry your tuna steaks in coconut oil (3 mins on each side), fry your eggs (keep the yolk runny), assemble on top of the noodles, season with salt and pepper, scatter the chopped spring onions on top, drizzle with sesame oil and squeeze lime juice on top and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Yum.
Broccoli Egg-Fried Rice
So quick, so tasty, so simple- and use whatever veg you happen to have lying around!
Broccoli for the rice (1/2 head per person)
2 eggs per person
3 spring onions, 1 red chilli, 2 cloves garlic. 1 thumb fresh ginger as a base
And then whatever you want to mix in; maybe some veg like mangetout/sugar snap peas/peas/green beans/peppers/mushrooms, whatever! Maybe some prawns, some chicken, some tofu. Whatever floats your culinary boat.
Garnishes: Toasted sesame oil and soya sauce (or alternatives like Tamari/Coconut Aminos) if you wish, Lemon or lime juice, fresh coriander.
To make the Broccoli Rice chop your broccoli florets and put through the food processor on the grater setting. Either that or hand grate.
In a wok heat the coconut oil and chuck in your base of chilli, garlic, ginger and spring onions. Add your meat, fish, tofu (whatever you’ve chosen), add your veg, stir fry for the least amount of time possible to keep all the veg fresh. Once there, add the broccoli rice. put in a tiny amount of boiling water and put on a lid (or sit a wooden chopping board on top) to steam for a minute or two. Take the lid off, create a small ‘well’ in the mixture and crack your eggs into the pan. Scramble and then mix through the whole mixture until there is a scrambled egg texture throughout it.
Season generously with salt and pepper.
Drizzle with a generous glug of sesame oil and squeeze of lemon and lime.
Serve in bowls and garnish with whatever your fancy- soya sauce or alternatives, sesame seeds, coriander, maybe some chopped radishes, cashew nuts/peanuts…. be creative!
Courgette Pasta and Ragu Sauce
You CAN do Italian without pizza and pasta, here’s how.
Pasta: 1 sizable courgette per person (or 2 small)
Bolognese sauce (will make a big pot):
1 large onion
Mince (beef mince if you are a carnivore, red lentils if you are veggie)
1 stick celery
3 cloves garlic
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 can chopped tomatoes
Herbs- oregano, basil.
Glug of red wine (optional)
Salt and Pepper
Finely dice your onion, celery and carrot, heat some olive oil in a pan and sautee until soft, add the mince to brown it. (If you’re veggie just add the lentils with this next stage) Then add in the tomatoes, tomato puree, garlic, a good glug of wine (optional) and keep it on a low heat, stirring regularly for the next 30 mins or so, reduce it down, add the herbs at somepoint, season generously with salt and pepper once during cooking and once at the end…. (as you can see I’m not the most precise recipe writer.. it’s more fun that way!)
Spiralize your courgette. You can keep it as a raw element and top with the hot ragu sauce, or you can put a little oil in a pan and lightly fry the courgette for a quick minute to warm it through before serving (the spirals will loose their shape though- I prefer raw).
If you don’t have a spiralizer then you can handmake the pasta using your wide-blade peeler…
Yum! Grate some parmesan on top if you wish.
Why not have the same but with spiralized Butternut Squash instead of courgette? (I think this would be particularly amazing with Wild Boar mince…) Or celeriac? Or go vegan and have the courgette pasta with pesto made from whizzing together a big bunch of parsley, toasted sunflower seeds, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and a dash of water in a blender), maybe add in some cooked green lentils, some olives… go carnivore and incorporate some cooked chicken. Experiment!
Cauliflower pizza base
Who says you can’t be grain free and eat pizza? Crazy people.
For 1 pizza base:
1 egg white, beaten
50g ground almonds
40 flour (whatever… but buckwheat to be gluten free and gram or coconut to be proper Paleo)
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
Salt and Pepper
Pre-heat your oven to 190 degrees Celsius.
If you have a food processor: Chop and weigh your cauliflower and put through the food processor on the grater setting. Change the blade to the mixer setting and blend together ALL the ingredients.
(If you are without food processor, grate the cauliflower then mix in with all the other ingredients in a big bowl)
Grease a baking tray with coconut oil and spread the mixture onto it in as ‘pizza-y’ a way as you can. I usually go for a wonky rectangle. If you manage to make something circular, wow, precision, kudos to you!
For the topping:
Top with whatever you want: a tomato sauce (made out of the ingredients from the recipe above Ragu but without the mince) and cheese (Mozzarella or Feta or Goat’s Cheese). Vegetables like peppers, mushrooms, artichokes, olives, red onion, or why not parma ham, figs, rocket (the rocket and figs post cooking, obvs)…. Again experiment!
Bake for 20 mins. N.B. Flip it after 15 mins using a fish slice so it gets browned on both sides.
And finally- who says you can’t be grain free, lactose free and allergic to deadly-nightshade family (tomatoes/aubergine/peppers/potatoes)- so therefore ALL the ingredients of a traditional pizza…. and not eat pizza? A bunch of silly billies. Meet my…
Turkish Inspired Pizza
Cauliflower pizza base
1 white onion
2 cloves garlic
1 red onion
handful of peas
1/2 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp harissa paste, 1/2 tsp dried mint
Cucumber, tahini, fresh mint.
Make the Cauliflower pizza base (above) without putting anything on it. Just cook it by itself, and while it is cooking we will prepare the topping separately.
Fry a pack of lamb mince fried in onions and garlic. Add in a 1/2 tsp of harissa paste, 1/4 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp dried mint, salt and pepper, and mix in a handful of frozen peas. Once cooked dish out on top of the pizza base just after it comes out the oven, and add some cucumber slices on top, some fresh mint, some finely sliced red onion and a drizzle of tahini. Serve with a rocket salad. This is AMAZINGLY tasty.
Fragrant Lamb Meatballs with Cauliflower Cous Cous
Another great way to use these flavours is to make cauliflower rice and use the same ingredients (minus the peas) and make the lamb mince into meatballs. Cook the peas separately and serve the cauliflower rice in the bottom of the bowl, sprinkle with the peas, put the lamb meatballs on top, followed by the cucumber, fresh mint, fresh parsley too is good, finely sliced red onion and tahini. Maybe you want to skip the peas and chuck a handful of pomegranate seeds over the top instead? SO many possibilities!
So I hope these recipe suggestions give you a few ideas. Get your food processor going, get in-spiralized and be creative! I’m thinking I might try raw spiralized courgette and beetroot pasta, served with broken up roasted confit duck leg, and a sauce-of-sorts made up of sauteed onions, garlic, fresh oregano and green and black olives in olive oil and lemon juice…
Who needs pasta, rice or noodles? Ditch them and cooking just got much more exciting. Not to mention your future health thanks you in advance!
Lots of culinary love x
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