30 November 2011

The problem that is lunch - solved!

Ever since I've been attempting (with ups and downs) to follow this anti-inflammatory diet, I've had a problem with two meals - breakfast and lunch.  Breakfast is another blog post entirely, but lunch has continued to be a problem right up until I remembered soup.

Of course, the fact that we're now into the chilly autumnal days that lead into true winter does help.  Gone are the days of whipping up an interesting salad for lunch.  Take this salad - these days I am not "allowed" the fresh tomatoes or the Feta cheese - and the Kiwi's are only tolerated because of their high Vit.C. content.

It's not so bad though, because there are a myriad collection of vegetables that are at my disposal.  All the green leafies, and basically anything that's not a carbohydrate are open to me to use.

I went through a stage of eating stir fries at lunchtime, until it dawned on me that I was probably overdoing the oil content.  Olive oil is very good when you're on an anti-inflammatory diet, but when you're trying to lose weight as well, you need to just ration it a bit.  Okay, a lot.

Rubbish presentation - bet Monica wouldn't put that in front of Michel!
It's the same thing with oily fish.  Mackerel is easy-peasy, as you can obtain a tin of mackerel in brine for less than £1 and pop it on toast for lunch - but you can't do that every day of the week, not without going off mackerel and anyway the toast is a no-no.

I had a flash of inspiration and put mackerel with an avocado, which went beautifully.  However again, you can't be having that every day.

So when the desire to have something warm, comforting and "food-like" - you know, something that you know you've eaten by the end of it; something that doesn't just fall into the black hole that is your stomach and disappear; something that won't mean you're hungry again by the time you leave the table - came over me, I was so happy when I thought of soup.

I have, so far, made two soups - both of which are versions of one another.

Mmmn, warm, filling, lovely!
The original, Lunchtime Soup, I have already posted about.  However, today's version was even better - and made more agreeable from an anti-inflammatory point of view by the addition of some chilli.

Today's lunchtime soup involved sweating off in some olive oil, a chopped onion, a crushed clove of garlic, two finely chopped sticks of celery and some finely chopped carrot.

Next, I added (all finely chopped) a leek, a parsnip, a courgette, some swede and a sweet potato.  Stirred them all around to get them covered in the olive oil and added 750ml of Swiss Vegetable Bouillon.  Brought it to the boil and then simmered, covered, for 5-10 minutes or until the vegetables were looking half-cooked.

I then added some finely sliced Savoy cabbage and left the soup until everything was cooked through and tender.

Next, using a hand blender, I blitzed approximately half the soup and mixed it in.  Had a taste, adjusted the seasoning and sat down for lunch.  It probably took around a half an hour to make from start to finish - and I've got enough left for the next two days.

Now, from an anti-inflammatory point of view, it works out to be around +340 per serving, which is absolutely great!  The only vegetables that registered a negative score were the parsnip (-35) and the swede (-9).  The savoy cabbage (+1), leek (+8) and celery (+8) are very worth including for their flavour, but don't add much to the cause otherwise.  However, the cause is very much boosted by the addition of the chilli (+170), onion (+257), garlic (+107), carrots (+144) and a majestic +232 from the sweet potato!

In my attempts to find something nice to eat for lunch, I made a Skinny Cauliflower Cheese a couple of days ago.  Now, as a low fat Cauliflower Cheese, I'd say it hit the spot.  However, it missed being suitable for an anti-inflammatory diet, by quite a mile, unfortunately.  However, because it was successful for what it was, I've included the recipe here.

When I was thinking about how to go about this, I realised that in losing some of the intensity of the cheese flavour, I'd need to replace it with something.  Now because I'm a vegetable-lover and it's getting close to Christmas, immediately Brussels Sprouts sprang to mind.  I just adore those little green jewels - and cooked carefully, I felt they would add some interesting flavour notes.

I blanched the brussels along with the cauliflower, for just 2-3 minutes, then cut them in half.  I felt a half a brussels sprout would be more acceptable to find on your fork than a big mouthful.  More in keeping with the size of the cauliflower, too.

The sauce was made by heating a tablespoonful of olive oil, then adding two tablespoonfuls of flour and a heavy teaspoonful of English Mustard powder.  Of course, it would be difficult to call this a roux, as there wasn't nearly enough oil to qualify.  It was more of a r... than it was ever a roux!  However, having mixed everything together, I began to add a pint of skimmed milk and stirred out the lumps.  I added a good quantity of black pepper and a pinch of nutmeg and stirred again.

It wasn't burned, honest - just lightly singed!
Next into the sauce, went a half a tub of low fat ricotta, some grated Leicestershire cheese (I had around 50g to use up!) and some low fat double gloucester.  In fact, the double gloucester was the remains of a truckle of double gloucester with chives & onions - which lent another very successful flavour note to the sauce - and successfully used that up, too.

Once the cheese is all mixed in, put the vegetables into a baking dish and pour the cheese sauce over.  Add a micro-grating of parmesan to the surface and bake for 30 minutes or until golden and bubbling.  As you can see, I left mine in for a weency bit too long - but it still tasted marvellous.

Regrettably, at a score of -48 per serving (I was so sure that cauliflower had a greater anti-inflammatory rating than it did), it was a poor show in that regard.  Maybe next time, I'll add an onion and some chilli - that'd do it!



  1. I can't remember the last time I had cauli cheese - but that looks gorgeous. I love ricotta, it's such a handy ingredient to keep in the fridge for creamy sauces, and brilliant for anyone trying to follow a low fat eating plan.


  2. That was my thinking, Seren. I know that it is often used as a filling for pasta (with other things, admittedly) so I felt it would probably make a good base creaminess from which to start. I didn't, however, anticipate the slight chalkiness (similar to cottage cheese) that is brought. However, that wasn't a problem once you got the stronger flavoured, more melting, cheese in the sauce. Overall, I think it worked out very well. :)

  3. Do you ever add mustard powder or paprika to your cheese sauces?

  4. Mustard powder, yes - every time. In fact I talk about English Mustard powder above. :) Paprika, not so much. I like Cayenne Pepper, but I have a bit of a funny relationship with Paprika (especially smoked paprika) so tend to leave it to tomato or pepper type dishes.


I love to receive messages from you all, so if you can spare the time, comment away!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...