Low carb dinner party

2016FebLowCarbStartersSalmon+PateI had a low carb dinner party last weekend as I’m trying out some new recipes to suit people trying to lower their carb and sugar intake. It worked well, despite the nail-biting and ill-advised practice of trying out untried recipes on dinner guests, and I share with you the menu. Which also happens to be gluten-free.

Starters (shown): Almond-rosemary-parmesan crackers (around .25g net carbs/srv); cold-smoked Spring salmon (0g carbs/srv), Daikon radish slices (1g carbs/srv), red peppers (3g/half cup), turkey liver mousse (0.7g/srv). For the mousse, I adapted this beautiful recipe with its parsley and fennel frond gelée. It was very good on both the red pepper and the crackers. The crackers were based on this recipe (but I used whole egg, added some almond meal – unblanched unpeeled almonds – as well as  ground flax and poppyseed to give it a bit more fibre and oomph).

Moving right along, for the main course, we had a sausage, bean and collard casserole (about 17.2 g net sausage-beans-greens-400x400-kalynskitchencarbs/serving), with cauliflower mash (1.6g/srv) and a fennel and blood orange salad (5g/srv). The casserole was based on this slow cooker recipe (but wouldn’t fit in my small cooker, so was baked in a 325f oven for an hour or so). I mashed the cauliflower with butter, sour cream and a dash of whipping cream, plus a pinch of cumin, salt and pepper. There was also a not-very-low-carb-but-very-popular side dish, the highly delicious Squash with Chile Yogurt Cilantro Sauce (20 net carbs/srv) from Ottolenghi’s Plenty More cookbook (the recipe says 4 servings – I’d say more like 8). Which I have been eating all winter for breakfast, lunch or dinner, using butternut and hubbard squash as the base. So high in vitamin A and potassium you can forgive it its sweet more-ishness.

2016FebLowCarbSeedBunsI added almond flour-based seed buns (about 9.3 g net carbs for 1/4 of the recipe) to the table, which was very well received. It didn’t rise as high as the first time I’d made it, no doubt due to the extra seeds and almond meal I’d added to the recipe. I soaked the seeds (flax, pumpkin, sesame) overnight to reduce the phytic acid content (I’ll try soaking the almond flour and meal too next time). Doesn’t matter if it’s somewhat flat – it’s very good. (And very expensive to make, with the price of almond flour nowadays!)

The disappointment was the dessert, which was a low-carb Chocolate Souffle Cheesecake (about 8.2 net carbs/srv, made with semisweet baking chocolate). It was dry and crumbly, but edible with whipped cream and toasted walnuts (another gram or so of carbs). Before I give up on it – and how can I with 4 ingredients, no added sugar and all those health benefits? – I’ll try undercooking it in a deeper pan. And will be using a better quality chocolate (at least 70% but ideally, to my taste, more around the 80% cocoa solids).

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Chocolate – may not be the answer to Alzheimer’s after all

ChocCupcakesSad news for fans of a favourite medicine who cheered at recent news that cocoa flavanols may offer promise in Alzheimer’s research.

But: according to a more considered look at the issues, it turns out that although flavanols can relax blood vessels, improve blood flow and help with age related memory loss, these effects “…largely disappear once the cocoa bean is heated, fermented and processed into chocolate.

In other words, making chocolate destroys the very ingredient that is supposed to make it healthy.” Moreover, the study included only 37 participants and was funded by Mars, Inc., so may have been ever so slightly lacking in objectivity and rigour.

Even raw cocoa isn’t the conclusive answer, since there are no standards governing raw food production. There is, moreover, a risk of salmonella contamination – from the stages of harvest and fermentation. Producers use high temperature roasting of beans (120c-160c) to kill this bacteria for conventional chocolate. If that’s been done, your raw cocoa might not be as raw as you think. And those flavanols won’t be in evidence either.

The heat generated by fermentation (typically 45c and 50c, but not usually measured by rural producers) is not enough to do the trick as salmonella can grow within that range. So nor is the 45c (114f) steaming or dehydration temperature used in raw production. Pasteurization used to kill salmonella normally uses 1–10 mins at 60c or less than 1 min at 70c, although there are more heat-tolerant strains.

Conclusions? Life is short and all things in moderation is usually the answer. Still waiting on that magic bullet for Alzheimer’s.