Saturday, November 8, 2008

Alternative food strategies

Wife wants to lose more weight. To do this she has enacted a new edict; that there shall be no more potatoes, pasta, rice or flour served at mealtimes. Nor shall there be any 'healthy' options ready meals. Yet the demand is that the high protein element of the meal (Chicken / Beef / Pork / Fish etc.) shall not be served just with green vegetables.

Being the chief cook and bottlewasher in the household, it falls to yours truly to come up with the goods. Being the obliging husband I am, I've been scratching my head to find a lower carbohydrate alternative that isn't too sweet, perfumed or pulpy for our mutual likings. As Wife likes to put it; "Here's a new challenge for you Jones." As always, I sigh heartily and brace myself unto the task. It's either that or divorce proceedings.

Finally, an answer to my culinary conundrum has been found; Hummus (Or Homous, whatever). A higher protein, lower carbohydrate alternative which can be adapted to go with just about anything. One problem I have with the store bought stuff is firstly it's a pricey alternative to rice, pasta or potatoes at CDN$1.99 for 100g, and secondly it's full of stuff like Sesame paste (Tahini) which I've always found leaves a slight bitter aftertaste. Notwithstanding, there have been two issues to address; firstly price, and secondly flavour.

The cost I take care of by buying dried chick peas and olive oil, the two main ingredients, in bulk. Last purchase of Chick peas was 500g (Just over a pound weight) at CDN$3.90 a kilo. Which works out at about CDN$1.95 (roughly 1GBP). For Olive Oil, I buy the cheap stuff a litre at a time, which is about CDN$7-8 (around 4GBP /litre) if you buy carefully. A litre will make a lot of Hummus. Garlic I generally get at CDN$2 for 3 cloves, and a 3lb bag of Onions for CDN1.60.

Flavour, well, I've taken to adding any savoury spice / vegetable I fancy after the base mix has been prepared. Sea salt and black pepper with Parsnip. Broccoli with a pinch of Parmesan is nice. Beetroot with salt and pepper. Coriander and / or Cumin. Any of these are easy to do and damned impressive is you have someone to impress with your limited culinary skills.

Garlic Hummus Base mix method:
Stick half a pound (about 250g) of dried chick peas in a basin and pour in a litre or so of water. Leave to soak overnight then boil chick peas until soft. Failing that, put the whole shooting match in a saucepan and bring to boil, then turn down the heat and simmer (slow boil over minimum heat) until the peas can be mashed with a fork. Take off heat and drain for a couple of minutes.

Using a potato masher or food processor, mash the peas. Fine chop a largish onion and soften thoroughly in a little water brought to the boil for five or so minutes. Take off heat and drain. Add to softened Onion to mashed peas and mash some more. Crush and fine chop three cloves of Garlic, add to mix and mash. Add a cupful (150-200ml) or less of Olive oil to the mix and mash further until the chick peas, onion and garlic mixture resembles golden grainy mud like in the picture below.

Decant into bowl of choice. Can be served still warm as is, or left to cool in fridge for later use. Experience shows that the resultant mix will keep for a couple of weeks in an old sealed margarine tub without going manky. Pat yourself on the back, you have made Hummus. Now go off and split the atom or something else equally as ingenious. You are officially a clever person.

Additional flavourings;
Once the base mix is done, all you have to do is take out as much as you need and add flavouring of choice, be it salt and black pepper, red pepper, chili, curry powder, you name it. I've taken to adding whizzed up (Liquefied in food processor) Broccoli with a large pinch of Parmesan or other strong cheese. Beetroot with sea salt and a dash of vinegar. The mix can be briefly heated in a saucepan or microwave and served hot if desired. Makes for variety and prevents boredom. This also means you can invite any Vegetarians (Should they be fortunate enough to have you for a friend, or any friends at all, apart from other like minded moralisers) over to dine and without bestirring them to their usual state of high moral rectitude.

For those who might complain "But where's the Tahini?" I usually try to explain that we like it better this way. Well, at least until Wife gets bored with Hummus as an accompaniment to every meal. I give it a month, maybe even two weeks before she's asking me for buttered baked potatoes, french fries, Lasagna, or garlic fried rice again. Heavy sigh.

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