Blue cheese potato skins with crunchy butter walnuts

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These potatoes are perfect for cold evenings when you can’t quite summon the strength to make dinner. The recipe below is for one person.

Make time to fry the walnut pieces;  they add a buttery crunch that makes this meal extra indulgent!

you will need:

1 x large baking potato
20g x butter
1 x tbsp double cream
30g x gorgonzola cheese
2 x handfuls of fresh spinach
a handful of walnuts, broken into pieces

method:

Bake your potato at 220C for about an hour until cooked through.  Take them out the oven, cut in half and scoop out the potato from the skins into a bowl. Pop the skins to one side.

Add a knob of butter, the cheese and a good pinch of salt and pepper to the potato. Add cream here if you tolerate lactose. Stir well and dollop back into the skins.

Put your potato skins back on the baking tray and brush a little melted butter on each of the skins. Pop into the oven to crisp up for 5 minutes more.

While they’re crisping, add spinach to a pan of boiling water until wilted. It should only take half a minute! Drain the spinach, squeezing as much water out of it as possible. If you’re skipping the cream in this recipe, don’t worry too much about squeezing the water out completely, as this will help loosen your potato filling!

Remove the skins from the oven. Add the spinach to the potato mixture, stir well and dollop back into the potato skins once. Pop back into the oven for a further 10 minutes until the tops look crispy.

One last thing to do … pop another knob of butter into a small frying pan and allow to melt on a high heat, browning it slightly. Drop your walnut pieces in and fry for half a minute, tossing constantly to stop them from burning!

Scatter the walnut pieces over your potatoes once they look irresistibly crispy and serve with some leaves.

 

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Book review: The FODMAP Friendly Kitchen by Emma Hatcher

fodmap friendly kitchen review

I was so thrilled to learn a few months ago that the lovely Emma Hatcher (aka @shecanteatwhat) was working on a recipe book for the low FODMAP diet. Her book, The FODMAP Friendly Kitchen, is out now and contains 100 low FODMAP recipes that span breakfast, dinner, snacks and sweet treats to boot.

Em starts the book by sharing an experience that many of us relate to, walking us through the perils of IBS: the social stigma that exists around the syndrome and the journey that followed after she learned of the low FODMAP diet. I LOVE that Em talks about breaking the taboo around IBS. It’s not an easy topic to speak out about, and with 1 in 7 suffering from the syndrome it’s so important that we start talking openly about our experiences and the steps we can take to make our bodies feel better!

At the start of her book, Em takes the time to walk us through the diet, explaining how best to go through the various phases. She goes on to talk about this new way of cooking, and lists out staple kitchen ingredients which is hugely useful.

Then come the recipes. First, we get a good grounding in low FODMAP essentials like how to make fluffy quinoa and grains that many will be unfamiliar with, i.e. buckwheat. Very useful for those embarking on the diet for the first time.

There are then a whole host of yummy looking recipes, including low FODMAP juices if that’s your thing, snacks and sides and lots of sweet things in there too.  The mains look deliciously light and fresh, but the majority don’t look to be huge portions so I’m not sure how well the recipes would cater to those needing more hearty meals and bigger portion sizes.

A note on lactose! The materials my dietician supplied me with, distributed by the NHS, did make it clear that you can enjoy 2 tbsp of regular yoghurt (i.e. not lactose free) in one portion. This is a bit of a life saver but it didn’t come through in the book. Em also uses lactose-free butter, which is confusing to me as butter contains no carbohydrate and therefore no lactose. Too much fat can irritate your tummy if you have IBS, but there is no need to switch to dairy-free butter, just use sparingly if fat is a trigger for you.

What’s really useful is Em’s sample menus at the back of the book, where she combines recipes for five occasions i.e. having the girls round for dinner. It’s a really nice idea – it would have been brilliant if she’d included a weekly sample menu too!

The recipes I can’t wait to make…

  • Breakfast: Fluffy banana cinnamon pancakes
  • Lunch: Aubergine quinoa rolls
  • Dinner: Creamy polenta with mozzarella & burst tomatoes (right up my street!)
  • Sweet treat: Hippie bars

thoughts

I think this is a wonderful book, filled with inspiring recipes and content that make a hugely bewildering diet accessible and fun. This is a great step in the right direction for the low FODMAP diet and I’m confident that Em’s book will encourage many, many people wherever they are on their FODMAP journey!

The FODMAP Friendly Kitchen is published by the same publisher who brought us the Deliciously Ella series and a host of other aspirational diet books. Because of this, my fear is that this fantastic book might result in the low FODMAP diet being unfairly lumped together with these lifestyle fads so currently in vogue, potentially drawing the wrong kind of attention to what currently is the only proven long-term treatment for irritable bowel syndrome. This is a diet that should only be followed with the support of a GP and registered dietician. Em does stress this repeatedly, however if a book as aspirational as this one is published alongside books on clean eating, I can see its contents falling into all sorts of the wrong hands. Please only buy this book if you have already sought the proper medical guidance following your IBS diagnosis; the low FODMAP diet is not one to be adopted because you sometimes feel bloated after a big meal (we all do!).

I was at Em’s launch of The FODMAP Friendly Kitchen last week over at Borough Market, trying all sorts of wonderful sweet treats from her book. I’ve pictured some of these below so you can see for yourselves how tasty these look! Em, I wish you all the best for this book; it’s fab to see something like this in print and a brilliant achievement that I know will inspire many people.

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fodmap friendly kitchen review

Another delicious low FODMAP sauce!

low fodmap pasta sauce

A good pasta sauce is a great thing and when you’re following the low FODMAP diet, that’s even more true.

This easy sausage pasta recipe is a weekday favourite of mine. You can serve up on wheat free pasta, courgetti or regular pasta if you’re lucky enough to tolerate wheat!

In this recipe I tried out a new type of courgetti from a brand called Uniqueitalia. It caught my eye because it was sat with the spaghetti in store and was dehydrated to form two  nests (much like how you’d buy egg noodles). Worth a try, because the texture was firmer and so a totally different eating experience to the watery mess that can sometimes ensue with regular courgetti. You can buy these from good old Sainsbury’s, and I’d advise using both nests for one portion.

low fodmap pasta alternatives

you will need:

Serves you, another, and leaves some leftovers for lunch.

3 servings of your favourite regular or wheat free pasta, or courgetti (if you like the stuff).
1 x pack of good quality, free range sausages (I like Heck)
1 x onion, diced (leave out if you’re eliminating or don’t tolerate oligo-fructans and include a pinch of asofoetida powder instead)
2 x tins of tomatoes
1 x tsp tomato puree
1 x chilli, chopped finely
handful of fresh rosemary, chopped finely
garlic oil
parmesan, to serve

method:

Begin by frying your onion or asofoetida powder in some garlic oil. If using the powder, be careful to only add a pinch – this stuff is strong. Allow to cook down and then add your chilli and rosemary. Fry on a low heat and be careful not to burn.

On a chopping board, use a knife to squeeze the sausage meat out of its skin and then chop into meatball sized parts. This is much nicer than if you simply slice the sausages; you’re essentially creating sausage meatballs. Add all of these to the pan, and season well with salt and pepper. These sausages have less fat than cheaper ones and so you may want to add a dash of garlic oil as they brown to prevent them from burning.

After a couple of minutes, add your tinned tomatoes and stir in your tomato puree. This sauce is so low maintenance and your work here is nearly done; simply cook on a low heat with the lid off for 30 minutes. When the sauce is reduced and smelling fabulous, cook up your pasta / courgetti according to packet instructions.

Serve up your sauce with lashings of parmesan and black pepper.

low fodmap pasta sauce

Snacking on the low FODMAP diet

snacking on the low fodmap diet

This diet isn’t about denying yourself treats, so when the snack attack strikes it’s essential that you’ve got some low FODMAP options around. There’s no need to turn your treat into a tummy ache!

If you’re a snacker like me, preparation is vital. These are some of my low FODMAP life savers:

sweet

  • dark chocolate
  • flapjacks (buy ones made with golden syrup rather than honey or fructose syrups)
  • peanut butter
  • fresh low FODMAP fruit such as raspberries, strawberries, banana, clementines, pineapple

savoury

  • plain tortilla chips (make sure they’re free of the ambiguous ‘flavouring’ which often contains onion and garlic)
  • crisps (don’t have too many veggie crisps and watch out for flavouring!)
  • rice cakes and oat cakes
  • low FODMAP cheeses such as cheddar
  • low FODMAP nuts such as brazils, pecans, macadamias

my favourite low FODMAP snack products:

  • Pip & Nut nut butter sachets – expensive, but handy on the go!
  • Kallo dark-chocolate covered rice cakes
  • Sainsbury’s basics tortilla chips
  • Lindt Excellence dark chocolate with sea salt
  • Itsu crispy seaweed thins (yes, really!)
  • Lazy Day Foods free from tiffin

low fodmap snacks

Sneaky snacks high in FODMAPs:

  • Dried fruits such as apricot, banana chips, dates, coconut chips, cranberries, papaya

Limit your intake of dried fruits to:

13g dried cranberries
5g dried papaya
1 piece of dried pineapple
13g raisins

Also watch out for…

  • Milk chocolate
  • Most cereal bars, which often contain added fructose syrup, cashews, pistachios, dates and dried currants
  • Yoghurts with fruit compote, which is often high in fructose syrup
  • Coffee! Although this is low FODMAP if made with almond milk, caffeine is a big aggravator for IBS. If you’re finding you still have symptoms on the low FODMAP diet, trying cutting down on your coffee intake, too.

GET mAKING

Life is easier on the low FODMAP diet if you can start making some of your own snacks. Shop bought options that claim to be free of one FODMAP can often include another. Many free-from items are also expensive and not necessarily very tasty – so it’s wise to embrace your kitchen. I am a terrible baker and have had countless disasters (coconut flour is not my friend),  but once you get a few go-to recipes you’ll be glad you made the effort.

View some of my favourite recipes for low FODMAP treats and snacks.

 

why not treat yourself to wheat?

Did you know, you can still enjoy moderate amounts of wheat on the low FODMAP diet? See my menu below of goodies that can be enjoyed in moderation:

eat wheat low fodmap diet

eat wheat low fodmap diet

Happy snacking!

Crunchy chilli beef salad

Low fodmap chilli beef salad

This is perfect when you want a healthy dinner that doesn’t compromise on exciting flavours or textures. It’s mainly raw so tastes wonderfully fresh.

I’ve included sugarsnap peas here as I tolerate fructose, but you can easily swap in any green veggies to suit you!

you will need:

1 x large high quality minute steak
1 x nest of fine vermicelli rice noodles
LOADS of greens (anything works – I’ve used sugarsnap peas but if you can’t tolerate fructose, 1/2 cup of savoy cabbage, broccoli or green beans would work – just make sure you steam the cabbage a little before adding in!)
2 x good handfuls of pea shoots or spinach leaves
1 x fresh chilli
2 x spring onions (green parts only)
garlic oil
juice of half a lime
dash of soy sauce
dash of fish sauce
sesame seeds (optional)

method:

Begin by heating your garlic oil in a pan. Flash fry the minute steak (it will need hardly any time at all!) and move to a chopping board.

Chop your chilli and spring onions finely. Dice any green veggies you’re including – simply steaming the savoy cabbage for 1 minute if using. Broccoli and green beans add nice crunch when raw, but if it’s easier on your stomach, steam a little first before adding to the dish.

Slice your steak into fine strips. Add to a large bowl with your veggies, two handfuls of pea shoots or similar, tossing in the spring onions and chilli too. Squeeze the lime juice, soy and fish sauce over the salad to your taste and mix well.

In salted, boiling water, add your rice noodles and cook for one minute. Drain these, trying to get as much water out of them as possible before stirring through the salad.

Sprinkle with some sesame seeds and this is ready to enjoy. Delicious with a beer … if you’re lucky enough to tolerate one!

Slow roasted pork belly with chicory and toasted hazelnuts

slow roasted pork belly with chicory and toasted hazelnuts

My boyfriend recently made this tasty dish for us on a Sunday evening. It ticks a few boxes for me because it’s simple, delicious and low FODMAP… but feels quite special and comforting too.

The meat is the star of this recipe, so it’s worth seeking out a quality piece. Pork belly is a really cheap cut so if you can, try to buy a free range variety from a meat counter or butcher. We bought this organic, free range piece over the meat counter in the supermarket and it cost us less than £4 … pretty reasonable for a special Sunday lunch for two.

you will need:

400g of pork belly
red wine / sherry vinegar
bitter leaves (we used chicory but radicchio will also work)
large handful of  hazelnuts

method:

Score the skin of your pork with a sharp knife and sprinkle with a generous amount of salt. Pop into the oven in a roasting tin and allow to roast for around 1.5 hours.  When cooked, remove the skin and slice into strips. Slice the pork into strips about 2cm thick and add to a serving dish.

Added texture is especially important in this dish as the meat is so lovely and tender. The crunch you get from crackling, toasted hazelnuts and bitter leaves makes the whole thing really enjoyable to eat. Turn the oven right down and put the skin onto a baking tray lined with foil, sprinkling some more salt over. This will make your crackling.  On the same tray, add your hazelnuts. Pop the tray back in the oven for a few minutes to allow the skin to crisp up and the nuts to toast.

Add some of the pork fat from the roasting tin to a pan. Separate your bitter leaves, but leave them whole. Add to the pan briefly with a good splash of red wine or sherry vinegar. You don’t want these to cook right down but just soften slightly. Add the leaves to your dish with the pork.

Take your crackling and nuts out of the oven and add to the dish, peeling the outer shells of the hazelnuts away as you do so.

Serve this straight to the table, bringing the vinegar with you. It really needs the acidity to cut through, so add to your taste and enjoy!

slow roasted pork belly with chicory and toasted hazelnuts

Roasted aubergine, pine nuts, cinnamon lamb

Roasted aubergine with cinnamon lamb

If you’re still managing to be good this far into January, hats off to you.  I barely made it through the first week, and I’ve been unable to resist especially delicious treats in my kitchen lately such as THE most delicious butter we picked up at a local market this morning. It will be slathered on everything.

If you are trying to keep things lighter though, this is a nice low carb, low FODMAP dish for January. It’s not too hard to put together, either – you make the stuffing whilst the aubergine is roasting in the oven. This isn’t your average stuffed vegetable though – cinnamon and cumin bring a lovely warmth. Definitely don’t skip the pine nuts! Perfect with some leaves or some chickpeas cooked with paprika and preserved lemon to make this more of a meal.

you will need:

2 x good sized aubergines
1 x small packet of lamb mince (or Quorn mince is also delicious here)
1 tsp tomato puree
1 medium onion, finely chopped (leave out if you don’t tolerate / are in elimination phase)
1/2 tbsp ground cinnamon
1.5 tsp ground cumin
1.5 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp tamarind paste
1 tsp sugar
half a lemon
handful  of parsley, finely chopped
handful of pine nuts

method:

Cut each aubergine in half and brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Pop skin down in a roasting tin / dish and into a hot oven @ 200 (fan). This needs to be fairly deep, and something you’re happy to take the juices from later. Roast these for about 20 mins, making sure the flesh is cooked when you take them out.

While they’re roasting, heat some olive oil in a large pan and add your spices and onion (leave out if you cannot tolerate or are in your elimination phase). Cook on a medium heat for about 5 mins until the spices are really fragrant – but be careful not to burn them! Then add your pine nuts, and allow these to brown slightly. Add in the mince, tomato puree, chopped parsley, a teaspoon of sugar and season well. Keep stirring until the mince is cooked (this will be considerably less time if you’re using Quorn). You can also add some red wine to this sauce if you like and feel free to add some water if it needs.

In a separate bowl, add the juice of half a lemon, tamarind and some salt. Scrape out the flesh from the aubergines, being careful not to rip the skin, and add to the bowl. Mix well!

Now pop this back into the skins and top with your spiced mince filling. Pop back into the oven for 10 mins to crisp up nicely, and you’re done! Enjoy with a glass of that red.

Courgette fries with dill hummus

courgette fries with dill hummus

It might be January, but even the most virtuous amongst us have need for an indulgent snack now and then. These courgette fries are healthier than they look, with a light batter crisped in the oven rather than fried.

I love hummus, and luckily tolerate GOS pretty well so don’t need to cut it out of my diet. The freshness of the dill in this hummus works really well with the sweet courgette. If you are still in the elimination phase of the diet, or know you don’t tolerate GOS, try the low FODMAP dill mayonnaise below.

you will need:

For the courgette fries:
A good handful of breadcrumbs (fairly chunky breadcrumbs work well for this batter)
1 x free range egg, beaten
1 tbsp plain flour
2 x courgettes, cut into finger sized batons
Zest of 1 lemon

For the dill hummus:
1/2 a can of chickpeas (100g)
1 tbsp tahini
1 x garlic clove
2 x tbsp good quality olive oil
Juice of half a lemon
A handful of fresh dill, chopped

Low FODMAP alternative to hummus:
Of course, to make this a strictly low FODMAP snack, skip the hummus and dip the courgette fries in a tasty dill mayonnaise instead.

For a quick dip, mix 2 tbsp of good quality mayo with a small bunch of dill and a good squeeze of lemon juice.

 method:

Turn on your oven to 200°C (180°C fan). Place some foil on a baking tray. Lay the breadcrumbs and a tbsp of flour out on two separate plates, with the beaten egg in a bowl. Grate the zest of one lemon into the breadcrumbs and season with some salt and pepper.

One by one, dip your courgette batons in flour so that they are evenly coated, then dip into the egg before rolling in the breadcrumbs. Place the batons on the oven tray and pop into the oven to bake until golden (around 15 minutes).

While they’re in the oven crisping up, make your dill hummus (or mayo, as above). To make the hummus, throw all the hummus ingredients into your food processor and blend until smooth.

Enjoy while still hot!

FODMAP diet: friend or foe?

Fodmap diet: Friend or foe?

What happens when, instead of feeling better after the low FODMAP diet … you just feel a bit worse?

I’ve been on this journey for almost two years now and this week I’ve had a bit of a revelation. Although overall the diet has helped my identify my trigger foods (which is super helpful and ensures I’m not struck down by IBS unexpectedly anymore) I’ve had a pretty annoying side effect too.

I found that after my 6 week elimination phase, which I worked through with a registered dietician, the first thing I was desperate to reintroduce was onion. Before trialling the diet, like most people, I had used onion as the base for most meals. I couldn’t wait to taste flavour in my food again!

show time

When the happy day came to reintroduce my first food, I followed my Monash guidelines meticulously and fried up a tiny portion of white onion to have with my dinner. After eating this, I started to get the most painful, stabbing stomach cramps. These were unlike any symptom of IBS I had previously experienced, and it was crippling! I was confused and upset. Onion? 

Since then, I managed to reintroduce all the food groups in turn, and found out that the FODMAP causing the symptoms I was familiar with was sorbitol. But those symptoms? They were worlds apart from the stomach cramps that onions brought on.

Since moving into eating a relatively normal diet again, I found that onions (although not garlic, also in the same fructan family as onion…) were continuing to cause me these crippling stomach cramps. Where the heck had they come from?

enough is enough

I cut onions out of my diet until this month because of the pain I was experiencing. This month, I decided to conduct a little experiment. We’ve all had disapproving FODMAP naysayers say to us  ‘but you know that if you cut something out, you can become intolerant to it, right!?’ when explaining how the low FODMAP diet works. I generally ignore this comment because, a) it’s six weeks and b) what an annoying comment.

But reluctant to say, I think they’re onto something here. Over the past month, I’ve been forcing little portions of onion into my dinners to see if this is something I can overcome. And it is.

eureka!

By introducing tiny portions of less potent onions such as shallots, then red onions, and finally white onion – I find that I can eat mammoth onion-filled portions and not have a single cramp. It’s a miracle – (and an end to the relatively joyless and antisocial experience of being onion-free).

Fodmap diet: Friend or foe?

Hello old friends.

SHOULD I GIVE IT A GO? ARE MY SYMPTOMS A MYTH?

Your symptoms are not a myth. If you started this long journey because of your IBS – don’t forget the symptoms that brought you here. What were you feeling when you started? What was usual for you, pre-FODMAP?

For me onions were a new trigger food. This was kind of weird, to have a new symptom crop up out of the blue that was so different to the  other symptoms I had been experiencing.  I would encourage anyone who has developed new, unique feeling symptoms since cutting foods out to definitely try increasing your intake of enemy foods. As always, keep your food diary close and see what you can learn.

I went through a solid three weeks of pain after eating with onion. It took a lot of persistence, but what an amazing result.

Is the FODMAP diet a good idea

 

what’s your thing?

Have any of you felt a little worse off throughout the course of the low FODMAP diet, wondering if you should have started it in the first place? I’d love to hear about all of your experiences, so please feel free to share!

 

Tasty low fodmap prawn linguine

low fodmap prawn linguine

Seafood linguine is one of my all time favourite pasta dishes. This super easy, super quick low FODMAP version featuring prawns, fresh tomatoes and chilli is so simple – really anyone short on time could knock this up in a flash. One of those great pasta sauces that takes about as long as your pasta does to cook…

you will need:

garlic oil
1 x pack raw king prawns (you can use cooked, but raw are much tastier)
1 x chilli
a good handful of cherry tomatoes
a good handful of basil leaves
a glass of white wine
zest of one lemon
big bunch of parsley

Your favourite linguine (also any gluten free spaghetti will work!)

low fodmap prawn linguine

Start by putting your pasta on to cook with some salt in the water.

Heat your garlic oil in a large pan, adding finely chopped chilli. Halve your cherry tomatoes and add to the pan once the chilli is starting to soften. Turn the heat right down and let the tomatoes cook down, so that their juices fill the pan a little. Sprinkle some salt and the zest of a lemon over this, and add your white wine. Allow this to cook off slightly and the sauce to reduce a little, probably for 5-10 minutes on a low heat.

When your sauce is starting to smell really lovely and pasta nearly done, add the prawns to the pan. These are cooked when they turn pink, and while it’s important to ensure they’re cooked through, leaving them in too long will mean that they lose all their water and shrink up quite quickly – so watch this.

Drain your pasta and add some olive oil to it (regular, not garlic). Serve into bowls and add your sauce, finishing with your fragrant, chopped parsley. No cheese required here – just enjoy this fresh, simple sauce with just a little bit of heat and another glass of that white wine!