I met one of my oldest friends last week. We go back nearly thirty years, I think. I don’t see her that often, but when I do, it’s as if it’s just a continuum of the time before - even if our last meeting was months, or even years, ago. I love this woman’s courage, directness and no-nonsense attitude to life. Turns out, we’ve both lost a significant amount of weight recently, so obviously our respective weight-reduction diet plans were up for discussion and comparison. Her low-fat / low-calorie / high-nutrient Slimmer’s World diet (by which method she has lost four stone!) is almost the exact opposite of my high-fat / low-carbohydrate / Primal diet that doesn’t give a hoot about counting calories (though it’s still nutrient dense).
It’s a sure-fire thing that Primal Plate has nothing to offer my friend in terms of optimising a weight-loss maintenance plan because she’s doing brilliantly already, thank you very much! What I do know is that you cannot combine Primal eating (no-grains, low-carbohydrate) with a low-fat diet because you’d find yourself in a dietary hell of restricted food choices and no energy. And vice versa. The natural consequence of a high fat, high carbohydrate diet and a sedentary lifestyle is an increasingly fat and unhealthy body. In this context, today’s obesity and type-2 diabetes epidemic is the norm.
It appears dietary guidelines for weight loss are still polarised between low-fat / high-carbohydrate (including grains, potatoes and wholemeal bread) and high-fat / low-carbohydrate (your source of energy comes from healthy dietary fat like cheese, grass-fed meat, butter and cream). So, the message is, unless you do insane amounts of exercise, you really can’t combine both diets and stay at your optimum weight! Whatever you’ve been conditioned to believe, there is mounting scientific evidence that proves fat, particularly saturated fat (butter, cheese, meat and cream), isn’t the enemy. In fact, it may be high carbohydrates that are more dangerous. Hence, Primal Plate recipes answer the need for comfort food that could be mistaken for carbohydrate-rich meals.
Whilst putting the world to rights, as only sixty-something sagacious women can, I mentioned my inclination towards vegetarian food and my friend went on to tell me how tricky she found cooking for her son and girlfriend, who are both vegan. It was then a light went on inside my head. To make Primal Plate blog more relevant to her, why not develop a low-carbohydrate, Primal (no grains, no pulses, no legumes) easy-to-cook vegan recipe? And with that thought, Thai Spiced Aubergine Curry with Cauliflower Rice was created.
The first time I made this dish, the result was such a pleasant surprise! The aubergine transforms itself into a sort of ‘vegetarian meat’ that absorbs the curry spices and fresh lime juice well, and perfectly blends with creamy coconut milk into an amalgam of sweet-sour, meltingly soft, spicy curry perfection.
The trick to cooking aubergine is to cook it thoroughly - in this instance, first cutting it into smallish pieces and frying in coconut oil until it’s evenly brown on all sides, then lightly braising in the sauce until it’s unctuously soft and velvety. Low-carbohydrate, grain-free, cauliflower ‘rice’ does a brilliant job of soaking up all the delectable juices and voilà - a healthy, flavoursome vegan meal that is seriously yum!
You’ll need a food processor to make the Cauliflower Rice.
Thai Spiced Aubergine Curry with Cauliflower Rice (Serves 4)
Ingredients - for the aubergine curry
3 medium aubergines (about 750g (1lb 10oz) total weight)
3 tbsp organic coconut oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2.5cm (1in) piece root ginger, finely chopped
4 tsp red Thai curry paste (I use Barts)
1 tbsp raw organic coconut sugar
1 lime, juiced
1 tbsp tamari
Freshly ground black pepper
300ml (10½ fl oz) cold water
2 x 400g (14oz) cans full-fat coconut milk
15g (½oz) basil leaves, finely shredded
60g (2oz) raw cashews
1tsp olive oil
Heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil in a small frying pan and slowly toast the cashews over a low heat until they are golden. Allow them to cool on a plate lined with kitchen paper. When cool, use a sharp knife to chop them into smallish pieces. Set aside.
Meanwhile, clean the aubergines with a damp kitchen towel, cut off the stalk end then cut the flesh into small (2cm) cubes.
Heat the coconut oil in a large frying pan over a medium-high heat then add the chopped onion and ginger and cook for 2-3 minutes until softened.
Add the aubergine cubes and fry, turning over from time to time, until everything is a deep golden brown on all sides. This takes about 10 minutes so keep your eye on it to make sure the mixture browns evenly and doesn’t burn.
Add the curry paste to the pan and cook for a further minute. Then add the coconut sugar, the lime juice, the tamari, sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and the cold water. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to gentle simmer and continue to cook for 15 minutes or until the liquid has reduced to about a third of its original volume.
Stir in the coconut milk and continue to cook gently for another 5 minutes.
Taste to check the seasoning, then serve with shredded basil and toasted cashews scattered over and steamed Cauliflower Rice.
Cauliflower Rice (V) (Serves 4)
1 large head of cauliflower, preferably organic
1-2 fresh bay leaf (optional)
Boil a kettle of water.
Wash and dry a large head of cauliflower. Cut off the florets only (you don’t need the stem). Blitz the florets in a food processor for about 30 seconds until it comes together into a powdery cauliflower ‘snow’.
Tip the cauliflower into the top of a steamer and tuck a couple of bay leaves into the cauliflower, if you have them. Pour the boiling water from the kettle into the bottom of the steamer, cover and steam for 3-4 minutes (do not cook any longer than this - the ‘grains’ of cauliflower should stay separate, not reduce to wet mush!)
Drain well and serve immediately with Thai Spiced Aubergine Curry
There’s no need to salt the aubergines for this recipe, or indeed for any recipe calling for aubergine now that the bitterness has been bred out of modern varieties. When it comes to Mellanzane Parmigiana I still do, mainly out of force of habit, which just harks back to the time when I used to fry the aubergine slices in olive oil prior to assembling the dish and, unless they were pre-salted, the amount of olive oil they absorbed was alarming!
Carbohydrate 28g Protein 13g - per serving of aubergine curry with cauliflower rice