Oh jambalaya, nectar of the gods. I adore this stuff, just adore it and it’s virtually impossible to replicate in Ireland due to the lack of ingredients, although a certain Dublin restaurant tries to, badly. Ahem. Moving on…. Soooo the next best thing is home cooking.
The traditional Andouille sausage is not available here, so generally I use chorizo to replace it, not quite the same, but it works and tastes fab. However yesterday I needed a nice low-fat or syn-free jambalaya which meant chorizo was out. How could I replicate that smoky flavour without all the fat of the sausages? Well… I used James Whelan slimline sausages – which are essentially fat-free (syn-free for those of you following Slimming World) sausages that actually taste like sausages – and a heap of smoked paprika. I also added more vegetables than usual to my sofrito to add bulk and health. The result was a delicious jambalaya that my toughest critic, himself, didn’t seem to notice was any different from my usual concoction.
A friend of mine from New Orleans always told me the key to “nawlins” cooking is the use of 5 types of pepper – white, black, cayenne, chillis and bell peppers – all of which feature heavily here, but not enough to make it super spicy, although feel free to add more heat by all means. You could also add different vegetables like okra, spinach and different types of pepper to make it your own. It’s an easy versatile recipe that can be played around with. The best bit? It makes the most epic of breakfasts when reheated and topped with a fried egg the next morning! Win!
Gorgeous low-fat jambalaya recipe. If not concerned with fat content, use andouille or chorizo sausage and cut down on the smoked paprika.
- 2 carrots, diced
- 2 stalks celery, diced
- 1 green pepper, diced
- 1 large onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 red chilli, diced
- 2 chicken fillets, diced
- 6 syn-free/low-fat sausages, cooked and sliced
- pinch white pepper
- pinch black pepper
- pinch cayenne pepper
- pinch chilli powder
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 250g short grain rice (bomba, carnaroli or arborio)
- 500g passata
- 250g chicken/fish stock
- 2 roasted red peppers, chopped
- 250g prawns, shelled and deveined
- coriander, chopped
- parsley, chopped
- In a large pot, cook the vegetables and garlic in non-fat cooking spray (use olive oil if not concerned about syns) until slightly softened. Season to taste. Add chicken and spices. Cook until chicken just cooked through. Season. Add rice and stir to coat, pour in passata and stock and bring to a boil. Turn heat to lowest setting and put lid on. Cook for about twenty minutes or until rice is just under cooked. Add prawns and roasted red pepper, stir through. Turn off heat and replace lid. Allow to sit for ten minutes or until prawns are cooked through. Stir in coriander and parsley, reserving more parsley for garnish.
- Serve immediately with a wedge of lemon. Enjoy!
I have this thing with artificial sweeteners. I just can’t get past the after taste. I have a really sensitive palate (said like a complete snob) to the extent I can’t eat food reheated in tupperware or baking made in silicone because all they taste of is plastic. Yes, I’m mad. So when I go on a program like Slimming World and cut both natural and normal sugars, I’m stumped. I love my porridge with brown sugar and sweetener just doesn’t cut it. So I was thinking, how can I get my porridge in without the sweetener and my mind went to the savoury, like grits. Grits with cheese was one of my all time favourite breakfasts in the US, so why couldn’t I have something similar here?
Enter my syn-free savoury masala porridge with fried egg. Super easy and completely free on Slimming World if using the porridge as healthy extra B. You could play around with whatever vegetables you like and really make this your own. It is absolutely delicious and feels like a sinful breakfast!
- 35g porridge oats
- cooking spray
- 2 scallions, diced
- 1 tomato, diced
- 1 green chilli, diced
- generous pinch cumin
- pinch chilli powder
- 1 babybel light, grated
- 1 egg
- fresh coriander, chopped
- Cook porridge with water until desired consistency. Set aside.
- Spray a frying pan with non-stick cooking spray and fry vegetables until slightly tender. Add spices and season. Add to porridge. Add grated cheese and spices, taste and season. Stir in some of the chopped coriander.
- Fry egg in cooking spray and place on top. Garnish with more fresh coriander.
Syn-free Masala Porridge when oats used as HexB
This chicken and apricot tagine is a really simple, tasty and frugal Middle-Eastern inspired chicken dish. It would work in the slow cooker, on the stove or indeed in a tagine for a more authentic flavour.
Ras-el-Hanout is a Middle Eastern spice blend. Every cook has his or her own version, so whatever you find should work just fine. I bought mine at Tesco, but if you’re feeling adventurous scroll down on this page for a recipe. The mix is a lovely blend of sweet spices like cinnamon and cloves with a subtle curry undertone. It’s a strangely familiar and comforting blend, one that is perfect for this Autumn season.
You could use chicken breasts with this as well, but personally, I find them bland and tasteless, not to mention expensive. Chicken legs or thighs work perfectly here. Lots of meat and more importantly, lots of flavour. This recipe will serve 4-6 easily.
Chicken and Apricot Tagine
- Olive oil
- 6 chicken legs
- 2 onions, sliced
- 4 cloves garlic, diced
- 1 small package of dried apricots, chopped
- 1 inch piece of root ginger, grated
- 1 tin of tomatoes
- 1 tin of chick peas, drained
- 1 heaped tablespoon ras el hanout
- pinch of saffron
- 8 fl oz chicken stock
- 3 tbsp honey
- salt and pepper
- coriander or Italian parsley to garnish
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet and brown the chicken pieces on each side. Remove to a plate.
- Sauté the onion in the same skillet until soft, then add the garlic, ginger and apricots. Cook for a minute or two before adding the tomatoes, chickpeas, stock, honey and spices.
- Give it a quick stir to combine everything then put the chicken on top. Lower heat to medium low and put a lid on the skillet. Cook for 20 minutes or so until chicken is cooked through.
- Salt and pepper according to your taste then plate and garnish with cilantro.
- Serve with cous cous or rice if you'd like and top with some greek yoghurt.
I had a huge craving for seafood chowder when the weather changed the other day, but I put it out of my head because I knew those luscious chunks of potato would be no good for my waistline. As usual, I couldn’t get the craving out of my head so I decided to fiddle with my normal recipe and make a great tasting low carb seafood chowder which I served with grain free cheddar muffins, an old standby.
To reduce the carbs, I used no potatoes and used less veg overall, but diced very fine, so you couldn’t really tell and no flavour was sacrificed. Try to use a seafood mix with some smoked fish in it to add a subtle smoky flavour to the finished chowder.
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 50g diced celery
- 50g diced onion
- 50 g diced carrot
- 70g sliced leek
- pinch smoked paprika
- 1 bay leaf
- 2-3 sprigs thyme
- 500g seafood mix
- 100ml vegetable stock
- 200ml cream
- chopped parsley, to serve
- Saute the vegetables in the butter until beginning to soften.
- Add herbs, paprika and liquids and bring to a low boil. Add seafood and simmer until cooked through. Remove herbs.
- Serve immediately garnished with some fresh parsley.
This is a fabulous grain-free muffin recipe using ground almonds instead of flour. They are so good I use them even when we are not eating low-carb. You can experiment with flavours, using different herb and cheese combinations. Roasted red pepper and feta works really well. I imagine this would make a lovely sweet version as well with berries but I haven’t had a chance to play around with that yet.
- 200g ground almonds
- 1 tbsp baking powder (gluten-free if preferred)
- pinch garlic powder
- pinch paprika
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 eggs
- 4 tbsp butter
- 4 tbsp greek yoghurt
- 4 scallions, diced
- 2 handfuls grated cheddar
- Pre-heat oven to 200C/400F.
- Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
- Saute the scallions in the butter for a few minutes until softened.
- Mix the yoghurt, eggs and butter scallion mixture together.
- Tip into dry ingredients, mix well and fold in cheese.
- Spoon into a greased muffin tin.
- Bake for about 20 minutes.
Eating low carb is hard in this weather. You don’t feel like cooking in the heat and the simplest option is just to grab a sandwich. I tend to always have some minute steaks in the fridge for an easy option that doesn’t require much cooking. No it’s not the tastiest or most tender of steaks, but it’s a quick protein boost in a pinch and when sliced thinly it holds its own.
I came up with this the other day as I was craving something Tex-Mex but couldn’t be arsed to go to the trouble of making salsa and guacamole. Quick and easy, no marinading and almost tastier than regular fajitas due to the crunch of the baby gem. Perfect summer lunch. You could just as easily use chicken, prawns or salmon.
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 minute steak
- 1/2 red pepper
- 1/2 red onion
- 1 clove garlic
- juice of half a lemon
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
- pinch of sweetener (optional)
- handful chopped coriander
- 3 baby gem leaves
- Sour cream to serve
- Heat olive oil in a large skillet or wok.
- Slice the steak into thin strips. Set aside.
- Slice the onion and peppers and add to skillet with garlic. Saute for a minute or two until beginning to soften. Add steak, spices and sweetener and cook through. Add lemon juice and toss.
- Spoon into baby gem leaves, top with sour cream. Serve immediately.
I am not a big salad or sandwich person. I find them bland and insipid for the most part, but when I do indulge, it needs to be a full-on affair, meaty and full of crunch and varying textures. This salad absolutely fits the bill. It’s perfect for this fabulous weather we have been having and makes a great side for a BBQ or stands up well on its own as a hearty lunch.
You could use any greens you want, I happened to use rocket (arugula). To keep things low carb, make sure you find unsweetened or sweetened with fruit juice cranberries. Some are just pumped full of sugar. I made quick and easy vinaigrette to go with this cranberry and avocado salad, but any dressing with a sweet and sour sort of thing going on would work well.
Avocado and Cranberry Salad
For the dressing:
- 3 tablespoons of avocado oil
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1/2 tsp dry mustard
For the salad:
- 1/2 bag of rocket, washed
- 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
- Handful of slivered almonds, toasted
- 1 avocado, diced
- Handful of dried cranberries
- Mix dressing ingredients in a jar and shake to emulsify.
- Toss salad ingredients in a big bowl and dress just before serving.
I had a rather decadent lunch today. I was absolutely starved and needed protein after a workout, but I didn’t feel like cooking anything complicated. I had some salmon darnes in the fridge, so I cut them in half and skewered them. A few minutes on the grill and they were done. I am fairly particular about my guacamole, which is somewhat time-consuming to be done properly, but I didn’t have the time or ingredients to indulge in that today, so I improvised and came up with a lighter alternative. The result was a delicious healthy lunch that kept me full for hours. In fact, I’m still full as I write this and I ate it 6 hours ago. Win.
Salmon Skewers with Spring Onion Guacamole
- 2 salmon darnes, sliced in half
- dried chilli flakes
- salt and pepper
- 1 avocado
- 1 large spring onion, diced
- 1 handful of fresh coriander, chopped
- 1 small red chilli, diced
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- salt and pepper
- Thread the salmon onto skewers. Season with dried chilli, salt and pepper. Sear in a hote pan for 2-3 minutes a side until just under-done in the middle. Set aside while you prepare the guacamole.
- Mash avocado and add chilli, spring onion, coriander and lemon juice. Season liberally with salt and pepper.
- Spread avocado on plate, top with salmon skewers and garnish with additional coriander sprigs.
So with year one just about done, I figured I’d write down a bit of reflection on my first year. I’m not avoiding studying at all. Really.
I have learned so much this year. So so much. I’ve had to challenge my beliefs on many occasion. I’ve met some incredible people and some unpleasant people and I’ve learned much from both. It’s been a wonderful year but it’s also been a difficult year. I knew it would be tough commuiting 2-3 hours a day with three kids and sometimes it gets on top of me, but it’s a good kind of difficult and one that will pay off in the end. So here you have it, a short list of some of the non-academic things I’ve learned. The good, the bad, the ugly!
- Midwives are amazing. They are some of the hardest working people in the country, helping to bring new life into this world and bridge the gap into parenthood. They work in grueling conditions with very little reward and they inspire me every single day.
- Like any profession, a tiny minority of them aren’t so inspiring. But such is life. A preceptor who clearly doesn’t want you there can really make for a long and tough day.
- Nothing or no one prepares you for clinical placement. You’re sent off with a shiny new uniform, a few weeks of theory – which may or may not be useful depending on where you are placed – and are expected to know and do lots and have the wherewithal to stand it emotionally.
- Clinical placement is emotionally exhausting. Perhaps this is more the case for a mature student with the reality of commuting, having a family and having a bit more knowledge about what is wrong with the system, but I think all of us were a bit wrecked and shell-shocked afterward – to use one of our lecturer’s favourite terms. It’s grueling and you often see things that you know are wrong and shouldn’t happen and you feel somewhat complicit in some of them by staying silent, which is what everyone tells you to do.
- Interestingly enough, with me having a big mouth and what not, I didn’t always follow that rule and nothing bad happened. In fact, it always prompted discussion, change and reflection for both me and others involved. Bad advice? Perhaps. Perhaps it’s more in how and with whom you choose to go about it.
- Caesarean births are a big deal. Truly. Even though you know logically that it is major surgery – until you physically see the layers of the uterus being cut with a scalpel and the abdomen held open with retractors and the baby being often quite violently removed – you don’t really fathom the scale and severity of the operation. So much respect for section mamas, it’s not an easy road.
- Women are incredible. They are so strong. They take things in their stride and grow mentally and emotionally right in front of you. Their bodies are miraculous and their hearts are huge. It is such a privilege to be with them at such a turning point in their lives.
- The postnatal period is powerful. You literally see people become parents before your very eyes and it is a vulnerable and beautiful process and one that it is an honour to be a part of.
- The academic side of a BSc in Midwifery is a bit of a letdown. It’s very much rooted in nursing and I don’t see that changing any time soon as all advanced practice and academic midwives were nurses first. Hopefully in years to come as more direct entry midwives further their careers this will change, but in the meantime – for those of us who have absolutely zero interest in sick people who are not pregnant – it makes for a rather tedious program. A lecture on Alzheimer’s patients is not a good use of a two hour commute for a future midwife. It’s doubly frustrating because many of the shared modules with nursing students could really be beneficial if they were midwifery specific. Psychology and communications come to mind. The specifics there for pregnant women are quite important, but were never touched on because the majority of the students were studying nursing. I imagine next year’s pharmacology will be the same which is a shame because pharmacology is a very relevant concern for pregnant and lactating women which falls within our scope.
- Having said that, the midwifery modules are wonderful. The lecturers are so supportive and really teach evidence-based care. They truly want us to be the best we can be and it’s so refreshing. The clinical placement coordinators are the same. They push us hard, but it’s with good intention.
- Respect and choice are huge. I may not agree or understand some of the choices I see women make, but I respect and support them with those choices and am honoured to be able to do so.
- You learn a lot about yourself. You learn about your prejudices (ones you never thought you had), your beliefs, your personality, your attitudes and you see a strength and temerity you never knew you were capable of.
So that’s about it. There’s probably a million more, but I really should get back to my books! For those of you just here for the food, thank you for indulging me, regularly scheduled foodie goodness will resume shortly! 😉
Ah chicken satay, sweet, spicy, crunchy, delicious. It’s always been a favourite of mine. The first time I tried it was at a tiny Malaysian restaurant in Antwerp, where I spent my teenage years. It was sublime. I have yet to find one that is quite as good and I make a point of visiting any time I’m back in Antwerp for the satay and all the other delights they offer.
I needed a satay fix the other day and knew I had to find a way to make it a Low Carb Chicken Satay. This is a simple but extremely non-authentic recipe. Authenticity is great, but so is taste and this tastes fabulous, especially when your palate hasn’t had much sweetness in several weeks. I served it over a bed of cos (romaine) lettuce and cucumber. It was glorious, I will make again. Often!
- 500g chicken
- 1 tablespoon tumeric
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- pinch garlic powder
- salt and pepper to taste
- 3 tablespoons natural peanut butter
- 3 tablespoons coconut milk
- 1 tablespoon sriracha sauce
- 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 inch piece galangal or ginger, grated
- 5-6 tablespoons boiling water
- Low carb sweetener of your choice, to taste
- Chopped coriander, to garnish
- Dice your chicken into one inch cubes. I prefer to use boneless thighs as they grill well and have more flavour.
- Mix the dried spices, salt and pepper together and sprinkle on chicken. Massage into meat. Set aside, overnight, if desired.
- Mix remaining ingredients together to make the satay sauce, thinning out with the water to your desired consistency. Add some chillies if you like it spicier.
- Thread the chicken onto skewers and grill for 2-3 minutes per side, rotating as needed until cooked through.
- Plate onto salad and drizzle with sauce. Garnish with coriander.