Carbs take a back seat

They aren’t evil, it’s just best to eat less of them,choose wisely and it doesn’t have to be boring


If you haven’t heard, then I can only assume you’ve been living under a rock somewhere. I’m talking about the ongoing debate concerning the role of carbs – all things starchy and fibrous, including grains and sugar – in our diet.

In recent years, this debate has become increasingly contentious. The mountain of information now threatens to overwhelm the home cook, most of who, after all, simply want to make the right nutritional choices and avoid being shackled to the stove. And given that the No side of the debate appears to be winning, at least for now, choosing what to cook, and which ingredients to use, can be tricky.

So, should you or shouldn’t you, and if you do eat them, what kind(s) of carbs are best? Is dessert completely off the menu? And in a country of potato lovers, can we imagine fewer spuds on the table?

It sounds boring, but as with anything, it’s about balance. Many of us eat carbs too often: cereal or toast for breakfast; pastry, crisps and bars for snacks; sandwiches for lunch, and pasta for dinner. This is not balanced. Many carbs are just so convenient to cook it’s tempting to avoid achieve the right balance of protein, carbs and healthy fats – like those found in oily fish.

But food science is pointing us in the right direction. The traditional food pyramid has recently been inverted, with vegetables now assuming pole position. We can still eat bread, pasta and an occasional dessert – there’s nothing wrong with them – but to get all the nutrients we need for optimal function, it’s essential to have variety and volume; good proteins and fats, whole grains, and vegetables, lots of them, and often.

My recipes this week reflect that desire to reduce our carb intake and yet still indulge our sweet tooth every now and then. Yes, traditionally cottage pie would be topped with fluffy mash, but here the spuds are replaced with a leek and cauliflower mash strewn with spring onions and cherry tomatoes before being baked to sizzling deliciousness. I also used very little meat and bulked up on the carrots, celery and onion mix, so this really was packed with goodness. And please, don’t omit the anchovies. I promise you can’t taste them, and they add a rich umami kick to the sauce. I actually froze this after the shoot and then thawed it and re-heated it until piping hot. The topping wasn’t as gorgeous looking, but it tasted great and my family were so thrilled to be getting something they consider to be a real treat, they didn’t seem to notice the mean quantities of meat and overabundance of veg.

The other recipe is for a pear and cranberry crumble which is made with whole-wheat flour. The tart cranberry compote is a fine companion for the sweet pears, bubbling up through the spiced, buttery topping. Delicious topped with Greek yoghurt.

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