Food & Drink

Friday 1 August 2014

What to eat when wheat is off the daily menu

Giving up bread, pasta, noodles and rice is not easy but it can be done, and it has paid off for Lucinda O'Sullivan

Published 15/01/2012|05:00

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Tandoori chicken is simple to make and the result is both delicious and satisfying. Any meat can be used instead of chicken for the same delicious result

A lot of people have expressed interest in my wheat-free regime, about which I wrote last week, and what exactly I am eating. I don't call it a diet because I am eating plenty of other foods. There is no simple answer to giving up wheat -- it's a bit like an addiction and you just have to go 'cold turkey'.

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The first couple of weeks are hard -- what do you have instead of the morning toast or cereal and the well-filled sandwich or roll at lunchtime? It seems very strange but after a couple of weeks, when my rings became loose, the bracelet fell off and my left foot lost all puffiness and became absolutely perfect -- I can tell you, the temptation was gone immediately to have that gorgeous slice of olive bread, or apricot and walnut cake in restaurants.

I am not saying that I do not occasionally get a craving, like a cigarette smoker, for a big fat brown roll, stuffed to overflowing with my favourite mix of tuna and egg, usually from a garage shop as I travel around the country from A to B. No, folks, life is not spent sitting in expensive restaurants, but now I get the plastic container with just tuna and egg and it is very satisfying and the lack of bread is soon forgotten.

I don't ever really have time to sit down to a formal lunch per se but in many places that do modern casual lunches, as opposed to the carvery, the emphasis is on fillers! Everywhere you go it is something on ciabatta, or focaccia, on noodles or rice, burritos and so on, and you are actually better going to a carvery and having a good portion of beef, lamb, ham, chicken, and what I call 'an above-the-ground vegetable'.

As I said last week, having been through every diet there has ever been, I just decided to cut the wheat, bread, pasta, noodles. I also cut out rice and potatoes but those purely because I feel they give that same white carb comfort stodgy feel after you have eaten them, and I might be tempted to go back on the bread. I am very much an all or nothing person so it is easier for me to have nothing, than a bit of something.

The strange thing is that once you give these up, you are in fact a lot less hungry. It's almost like an addiction, and you lose the sluggish feeling. I discovered the book, Wheat Belly, by Dr William Davis www.rodalebooks.com when I was well down the road but I found it compulsive reading.

I want to reiterate I am not a dietician or an expert, I can only tell you what worked for me. Low-carb diets such as the Dukan diet will restrict you totally in its 'attack' phase to fish, viands, eggs, and there is no doubt that won't be long shifting the fat! So many people are on this diet. I was in Marks & Spencer's Food Hall last week and watched as, to my mind, a virtual stick insect in spindle heels studied the backs of packages and told one of the staff that she and her mum were on the Dukan diet. "There is only a tiny bit of crumb on the edge of the ham and I can cut that off," she said. Spare me!

Make no mistake, folks, I may have lost four stone but I am still no stick insect, and I honestly don't want to be one. Another couple of stone and I will be deliriously happy.

So what did I eat? I decided I was not going to be totally miserable and that I could not face my morning without a small glass of good orange juice, not the sugar-laden concentrate. I also have to have some green element with dinner. For breakfast I might have a fried egg -- yes, gently fried -- using chilli oil or good olive oil. Scrambled eggs are another favourite sprinkled with a little Parmesan cheese and black pepper; for lunch I might add smoked salmon. I also eat loads of 'Full Irish's' with eggs, bacon, black pudding, good sausages occasionally, ones with a high percentage of meat, 80 per cent. They actually have very nice premium ones in Lidl made by Olhausen's which won a bronze medal at the Blas na hEireann Awards.

I don't have a sweet tooth as such but with any of these dishes I have to have a tiny bit of redcurrant jelly! There must be a touch of Scandinavia in me for they frequently use a sweet sour combination there. For me, flavour in food is everything. I have to have flavour to satisfy me so spices, chutneys, oils and sauces feature in everything I eat from horseradish sauce to mango chutney, mayonnaise to Dijon mustard. I also eat a lot of meats and chicken with flour-free sauces, from curry to goulash.

One Swedish-based dish I find immensely useful is a sweet sour pickled cucumber salad. A little adds a great element of freshness and flavour to any plate or topped on salad. You can make it yourself or buy it in many supermarkets. Deirdre Hilliard's Organic 'Just Food' www.justfood.ie makes it in Cobh and supplies many shops and delis in Cork and Dublin. I also buy Darina Allen's version when at Midleton Market. Here is the recipe for it if you can't buy it, plus recipes for some of the other wheat-free dishes I make.

Swedish-style Sweet Sour Cucumber Salad

Method:

Heat the vinegar, sugar and salt until the sugar and salt are dissolved.

Allow to cool.

Pour over the cucumbers and leave overnight in the fridge (or for five hours).

Your cucumbers are pickled and it also makes the cucumber completely digestible.

Tandoori Chicken

Method

Mix the Tandoori paste and yogurt. Slash the chicken breasts crossways and coat with the Tandoori mix, marinate for a couple of hours, and bake in oven for about 40 minutes. Serve on stirfry vegetables tossed with sesame and chilli oil, or mixed salad.

Do this with any meats and it is delicious and satisfying.

Smoked Salmon Rolls

I love sushi but don't want the rice so make my own fast lunch rolls.

METHOD

Spread Wasabi paste (very hot Japanese horseradish) over slices of smoked salmon. Add a few leaves of pickled ginger to taste, roll up and hey voila!

Royal Egg & Prawn

METHOD

The posh version of this is reputed to be a favourite of the royal family. Their version is topped with aspic, refrigerated and, when set, topped with pieces of lobster or more prawns. Mine is the fast and furious everyday version! Mix the whole lot together and enjoy for lunch. Alternatively, you can buy prawn cocktail from the supermarket, add eggs and horseradish sauce, or Harissa paste to give it a bite.

Baked Fennel

METHOD

Lightly oil a baking dish. Cut the fennel bulbs downwards and layer with a Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle lightly with olive oil and lemon juice. You can add creme fraiche also if you wish. Cover lightly with tinfoil and bake in a preheated oven for about 40 minutes, remove tinfoil about 10 minutes before finish to let it brown a bit. This is very good with a darne of fresh salmon.

Parmigiana de Melanzane

METHOD

Put sliced aubergines in a colander sprinkled lightly with salt and leave to stand for an hour to extract fluid and bitterness.

Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a saucepan and cook onions and tomatoes with half basil and pepper and salt for 30 minutes.

Rinse and pat aubergine slices until dry.

Put layer of tomato sauce (sieved if you prefer) and layer with sliced aubergine, cheeses and sliced egg. Finish with a layer of sauce and bake at 180C (lower if fan oven) for 25 to 30 minutes.

Serve hot or cold but I prefer it next day cut into squares like a lasagne.

Moroccan Almond and Clementine Cake

If you have to have a 'sponge cake treat', try our favourite cake -- made in a flash.

METHOD

Put the fruit in a bowl in the microwave with a little water, cover and microwave on high for about 15 minutes. Alternatively, you can boil them for two hours but I am an instant lady!

Drain and when cool, cut them in half and remove pips. Dump the whole lot in a food processor and give it a quick blitz. Add in the other ingredients and mix thoroughly. Pour the cake mixture into a prepared 21cm tin (buttered and lined with grease-proof paper).

Bake for an hour, when a skewer should come out clean. Cover the top after 40 minutes with foil or greaseproof paper to stop it burning. Remove from the oven, leave in tin on a rack to cool.

When cold take it out of tin -- it is better the next day. You can add a ricotta cheese-type topping, or a fruit topping, but it is very satisfying and delicious and satisfies the longing.

Favourite Tossed Salad

METHOD

Toss with your favourite dressing. Mine is a mix of good olive oil, Balsamic vinegar, a whack of honey, Dijon mustard and horseradish sauce.

Basically you can adapt most recipes to exclude wheat. Think Moussaka with aubergines rather than potato-laden Shepherd's or Cottage Pie. Cook sliced chorizo sausages with garlic and prawns. Make a light version of Coronation Chicken -- not too heavy on the mayonnaise -- tweaked with curry powder, mango chutney and cold chicken. I eat cheese now instead of puds but don't overdose -- keep it for a treat, a lovely treat! Chocolate mousse is another favourite, or flour-free chocolate cake.

It's actually very easy, and it gets you thinking away from plain meats and just filling up with starch. Hope it works for you as well as it has worked for me but remember we are all different -- not everyone has the same reaction to wheat. So don't overdose on the sugars and fats if you want to really lose weight quickly -- just eat plenty of protein.

Sunday Independent

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