If you watched the BBC2 documentary Eat To Live Forever on 18th March 2015, with food critic Giles Coren setting out to test three allegedly extreme anti-ageing diet regimes, including the Paleo diet and the less restrictive Primal diet (as endorsed by Primal Plate), you might have been persuaded that devotees of the Primal Blueprint are basically people that are peculiarly afflicted - in the sense that, if they’re not monkeying around and wielding the equivalent of a club in Stone Age style in order to keep themselves fit, they’re gorging themselves silly on heart-attack-inducing animal fat and meat.
Nah! Not true! It seems to me that this is history repeating itself and misinformation, promulgated by vested interests, is damaging to public health! Hence we’re still in the grip of a high-carb, low-fat, calorie counting, portion-controlling, obesity and diabetes crisis! They’ll always find a way to discredit, undermine or silence pioneering thinkers. In 1972, in a book entitled Pure, White and Deadly, Professor John Yudkin tried to warn us about the dangers of sugar and it cost him his career. Distorted information (actually, downright lies!) wilfully fed to the public, causes confusion and so brought the Atkins Diet into disrepute. As for the high carb, low fat, cholesterol scare-mongering advice that’s ravaged the nation’s health for the past fifty years and…well basically, I’d advise you not to blindly believe anything you’re told.
Since it only takes 28 days to seriously test out the low-carbohydrate, higher-fat lifestyle for yourself and discover what’s true, it could be the most worthwhile investment in your health, and the health of your family, that you’ll ever make. You’re not alone, in 2013, Sweden was the first Western nation to reject low-fat dietary dogma in favour of low carb, high fat nutrition.
Most people have been conditioned into thinking dietary fat, especially saturated fat (did you know that olive oil has 9 times the saturated fat of pork?), is unhealthy. Not so. Natural, health-giving fats and oils (I do so love butter), should not be feared or avoided because they are nutritionally essential. And, when you diss the grains and refined sugar you do not even have to think about calories, much less count them! Remind yourself, it is sugar in all its forms that gets stored as fat in your fat cells, not actually the fats that you eat!
However, there is a killer fat on the loose in today’s society called trans fat, also known as hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. The raison d’être of an allegedly desirable “heart healthy” low-fat spread promoted by the British Heart Foundation (in collusion with Unilever!), you might think from what you’ve been told that it’s good for you because it helps to lower your cholesterol (it does, but not in a good way). Trans fats are a cheap, crap, man-made substitute for natural cold-pressed oils and hand-churned butter and are really injurious to health. They’re everywhere… in commercially baked foods (biscuits, cakes, breads) convenience foods (ready-meals, breaded fish, french fries) food from many fast food restaurants (that use hydrogenated vegetable oils for frying) and ironically, those supposedly ‘good for your heart’ spreads and margarine.
Trans fats accumulate in the body, can’t be metabolised and are implicated in many serious health problems including heart disease, cancer, diabetes and asthma. I urge you to read and digest this article then check all the labels of the foods you’ve already purchased for the ingredient ‘partially hydrogenated vegetable oil’. If it’s listed, you know what to do!
So beautiful butter it is then, which brings us to today’s Easter celebration lunch for vegetarians and Primal people not in the mood for meat, because there’s no better or more natural time of year to enjoy a savoury dish based around eggs. Pea & Pistachio Soufflés, Asparagus and Hollandaise Sauce has both the green colour and zingy freshness of lemon that I associate with springtime, so rather than eating any feather, fur or scale related friends (which always makes me feel a bit cheerless) this elegant, low-carb main course will be the one to grace our table next weekend. A compassionate extension, if you will, to Meat-Free Week, which seems to me to be far more appealing and relevant for a festival celebrating fertility, birth and new life.
Pea & Pistachio Soufflés with Hollandaise Sauce is ideal when English asparagus is in season (only for two months in May and June) but since the flavour of asparagus is so harmoniously aligned with these delicate soufflés and lemony hollandaise sauce, I make no apologies for using good-looking foreign-grown asparagus, when English isn’t available. Just make sure the spears are crisp, not discoloured and decent sized - you don’t want the fine variety of asparagus called sprue for this dish. Other spring-like vegetables that work well with Pea & Pistachio Soufflés and Hollandaise Sauce are tender stem broccoli, baby or Chantenay carrots and cauliflower. Try as I might to persuade Sarah that it might just be okay to eat them as a one-off treat, she simply won’t let me wander into Jersey potato territory!
I hope you will enjoy Easter and the transition to spring as much as we do. I think this is a very pretty and fresh-looking meal that wakes up the tastebuds and is a delicious introduction to the flavours of the new season approaching. Happy days!
Pea & Pistachio Soufflés, Asparagus and Hollandaise Sauce (V) (Serves 4)
Ingredients - for pea & pistachio soufflés
Butter, for greasing
2 tbsp olive oil
450g (1lb) leeks, trimmed, washed and finely chopped
225g (8oz) frozen peas
60ml (2fl oz) water
120g (4 oz) unsalted, shelled pistachio nuts
Large handful of fresh dill, stalks removed, finely chopped
4 organic eggs
4 tbsp crème fraîche
Fresh dill and lemon slices, to serve
Ingredients - for the asparagus and hollandaise sauce
450g (1lb) asparagus
150g (5oz) butter
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 organic egg yolks
Celtic sea salt
Instructions - for pea and pistachio soufflés
Pre-set the oven to 190 ℃ / 375 ℉ / Gas mark 5. Grease 4 x 250ml (8oz) ramekin dishes and line the bottom of each with a circle of non-stick baking parchment. Boil a kettle of water.
Heat the olive oil in a large pan on a medium heat. Add the finely chopped leeks, cover with a circle of greaseproof paper (cut to the diameter of your land) and cook with the lid on for 5 minutes.
Remove the lid and paper and stir in the frozen peas. Add the water and cook with the pan lid on for a further 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Finely chop the pistachio nuts in a food processor, add the cooked leek and pea mixture and blend until smooth. Add the chopped dill, eggs, crème fraîche and seasoning. Blend together thoroughly, taste and add more seasoning if necessary.
Pour the mixture into the ramekin dishes, filling to the top. Place in a roasting tin and pour boiling water (from the kettle) around the ramekins until it reaches half way up the sides, then carefully place in the oven and cook for 35 minutes until slightly risen and set.
Take out of the ‘bain marie’ (water bath) and leave to stand for 2 to 3 minutes. With a small sharp knife, loosen the edges of each soufflé and turn straight onto a warm plate. Garnish with dill and lemon and serve immediately with the Asparagus and Hollandaise Sauce together with a further selection of lightly cooked vegetables.
Instructions - for asparagus and hollandaise sauce
Boil a kettle of water.
To make the hollandaise sauce: heat the lemon juice in a small saucepan to just below boiling point.
Put the egg yolks, mustard, sea salt, cayenne pepper and hot lemon juice into a food processor or blender and whizz together until it’s pale and smooth.
Meanwhile, gently melt the butter in a small saucepan over a moderate heat and when it is very hot and foaming transfer to a heat-proof jug.
Switch the blender / food processor back on and with the machine continually running, slowly pour the melted butter in a steady trickle through the feed tube of the food processor - do this very gradually until all the butter has been added and the sauce is thickened, glossy and pale yellow in colour. Check the seasoning and adjust if necessary. Allow the mixture to stand for a minute or two before serving with the asparagus. (see note below)
To cook the asparagus: snap the tough ends off the stalks of asparagus, then using a potato peeler trim the bottom of the stalks further if necessary. Wash well.
Pour the boiling water from the kettle into the bottom half of a steamer, then steam the asparagus with the pan lid on for about 5-6 minutes, or until it is just tender.
It can be difficult to keep Hollandaise Sauce hot without it splitting or becoming overly thickened. Ideally, it should be made quickly at the last minute, which isn’t an easy task if you’re entertaining. The simplest solution is to pre-heat a wide-necked Thermos flask with boiling water, then seal it and set aside whilst you make your sauce. When the hollandaise is ready, quickly pour the water away and transfer the sauce directly from the food processor to the flask. Seal and serve within 20 minutes.
Unfortunately, I didn’t use the Thermos flask trick on this occasion and, as a result, the Hollandaise Sauce shown in the photograph above is a little too thin. This is because it wasn’t allowed to stand for a couple of minutes before serving. It seems to go with the territory of food blogging - there’s always an anxious 10 minutes for Sarah and I whilst we rush to get the food on the plate, photograph it and get it back to the table before someone’s dinner has gone cold!
Carbohydrate 16g Protein 19g - per soufflé
Carbohydrate 1g Protein 2g - per serving of hollandaise sauce
Carbohydrate 4g Protein 2g - per 100g serving of steamed asparagus