Tag Archives: pesto

How to make a ‘ta-da’ meal (that is undercover special needs)

Beetroot-starter Chorizo-stew

When I first started my unfeasibly-restrictive-diet I not only stopped eating out in restaurants and accepting invitations, but I assumed that it was curtains for my days as a hostess. I really love nothing more than cooking a huge meal for my friends and family – but how could I inflict my diet upon them?

As luck would have it, that turned out to be just the panic talking and, if anything, I have become even more of a dedicated and enthusiastic cook for other people since starting this diet. I just love the uniting effect that delicious food can have on people, and conversation. And what I have found is that although my diet is restrictive, I can make huge feasts and serve them to people who have absolutely no idea that I’m cooking around restrictions.

However, there is nothing worse than turning up for supper to a hostess who is red-faced, furious and stressed out; unable to properly talk or even offer you a drink, dammit, because she is either trying out a new recipe that’s going wrong, or because the timing of the meal is so precise and complicated that there is room in her brain for nothing else. Not even a little martini.

So please note: by ‘ta-da’ I do NOT mean complex or complicated, with a capucino froth wrapped in a sugar basket.

What I mean is a meal that is delicious, a bit decadent, makes people feel looked after and – crucially – doesn’t taste compromised. But also which can be made with minimal fuss and bother, ideally in advance, so you can get on with the important business of martini-making and putting the world to rights with your friends.

I have fed this chorizo stew to many many people over the years and I honestly don’t think anyone has noticed that it’s grain-free, sugar-free and, now I come to think of it, dairy-free too.

A quick note on ingredients: When I’m buying the chorizo, I scrutinise the label to make sure it hasn’t got dextrose or sugar in (lots do). Ideally, it should just have pork, smoked paprika, salt and pepper. Also, I can’t emphasise enough how worth it it is to splash a bit of cash on the jars of posh beans (which are only £3.50 but that seems a lot compared to 50p for a tin). I like Navaricco, which you can find in the big branches of M&S and some delis but be warned: once you have tried them there is no going back. When I go to a shop that sells them I automatically buy as many as I can carry, because running out is just WOEFUL when you are grain-free, because these beans are so good at taking your mind off the fact that you are.

Beets with rocket pesto

Serves 6

Beets – I allow about 2 small beets per person for a starter

Red wine vinegar for cooking

2 bags rocket leaves

200 g walnuts roughly chopped

150 g parmesan (grated or chopped into small chunks)

1 large clove of garlic, chopped

extra virgin oil

salt and pepper

Boil the beets in water with a splash of red wine vinegar until they are tender (which depends on the size). Drain and cool and then peel and chop them into quarters.

Put the rocket, walnuts, parmesan with a good pinch of salt and grind of pepper and blitz it in your food processor, adding olive oil until it’s the consistency of pesto. Dress your beets with as much pesto as people like and hey PESTO! (sorry).

Chorizo, red pepper and posh bean stew

Serves 6 

2 medium onions, chopped

2 chorizo sausages (uncooked)

5 red/yellow/orange peppers

2 tins tomatoes

1 jar posh haricot beans (though any white bean will do).

2 garlic cloves

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

salt and pepper

This stew is so easy to cook it’s almost embarrassing.

Fry the onions until they are soft. While you are doing that, chop the peppers into thinnish slices then cut them in half. Then cut the chorizo into thick slices. I then cut the slices in half because it’s easier to eat – but I’ll leave that to your discretion. Also, drain and rinse the beans.

When the onion is cooked, add the chorizo and let it cook for a bit before adding the peppers, stirring every so often. After about five minutes add the beans and, a few minutes later, the tomatoes, garlic and smoked paprika. Definitely taste before you salt as chorizo is often quite salty. Then cook slowly on a low heat for about an hour before eating. I served it with purple sprouting broccoli and I didn’t even spare a thought for the patatas bravas that might have gone with it if I could eat potatoes.

simple fish cake with pesto dressing

Fish cake with pesto dressing


This is a good example of the kind of thing that, when I started on the carb-free road, I just thought I’d have to live without – after all, how do you make a fishcake without potato, flour and breadcrumbs? But I love a fishcake, I do. And why should I live without them? Why!? So, the other day when I was looking at some left over white bean mash and wondering what to do with it, I thought I’d just see if I could cobble together a fish cake using beans instead of potato, and almond flour instead of flour. And although the end result wasn’t as ‘contained’ as a traditional one, it was completely delicious, and the almond flour fried itself into a beautiful golden crisp which (especially when you are coming from the stand point of there otherwise being no fish cakes) was entirely satisfactory. Next time I might blend in some parmesan with the almonds and see if that creates more of a ‘crust’. And I might add some black olives to the bean/tuna mix for a bit of texture. But in the meantime, this entirely and happily scratched the fish cake itch (that I didn’t even know was bothering me until this mini epiphany) and the whole venture only took about twelve minutes. I whizzed up a pesto dressing, which is very easy to do and which was a fine companion but mayonnaise would have been, too. Add a crispy green salad and Bob’s your uncle, and Fanny is your aunt (as they say in the States, apparently).

Fish cake 

Leftover bean mash or a can of white beans. I use haricot (because of being on the Specific Carbohydrate diet) but any would do.

Can of tuna

egg and almond flour

In a bowl blend the beans and tuna together. If you are using beans from the tin you might consider frying them up first with a bit of spring onion and garlic to add taste.  Use your hands to make ‘patties’ – I made traditional burger shapes but I know people who swear by a cylinder which makes it easier to get at every angle when you are frying them. Whisk up your egg and put it on a plate. Sprinkle the almond flour on another plate. Coat the fish cake thoroughly in egg and then dip it in almond flour so it is as covered as you can make it. Then lightly fry until the flour is golden and it’s heated through.

Pesto dressing

This is MEGA easy to make BUT only really really if you have a food processor, so sorry if you don’t have one; you may have to make do with mayo instead. And sorry my amounts are so imprecise but so much of it comes down to your own taste, so seize the power and be a bit experimental, remembering you can always add more (harder to take away).  Also, a really good thing to remember about pesto, if you are going to the faff of making it, is that it freezes really well, so you might want to make too much on purpose. Just a thought.

Bunch basil

parmesan (how much depends on how big your bunch of basil is: start with a few cubes then add more if you think you need it).

garlic (to taste – but remember you’ll be eating it raw so err on the side of caution)

pine nuts (a couple of tablespoons, but more if you are making lots)

extra virgin olive oil and salt and pepper

Shove all the ingredients into the food processor. Start blitzing, while slowly adding olive oil until it’s the consistency you want. For a ‘dressing’ add more. For traditional pesto it’s a bit less.