If I could have one 'mardy' about my Primal diet it’s that I just can’t seem to tactically allow potatoes back into my life…not ever! Having initially lost one and a half stones by eating low-carb, high fat (LCHF), I have on more than one occasion subsequently pined for the simplicity and density of potatoes. Carby they may be, but potatoes are in a league of their own and their virtues are not easily replicated. As well as being a naturally nutritious whole-food, simple spuds need no more than the application of heat to make them into something very, very tasty indeed (is there anyone that doesn’t love golden, crispy roasties?). When pre-cooked and chilled (think yummy potato salad) potatoes are also an alluring dietary source of resistant starch - which is top-notch food for ‘good’ gut bacteria, and thus your overall health. Or so I debate with myself…
Unfortunately, neither my nostalgia for potatoes or their nutritional profile is of any help to me. As far as my metabolism is concerned it’s not playing! I cannot ignore the fact that previously, within an hour or so of eating potatoes, my feet and ankles would swell alarmingly. No doubt potatoes had also long been playing havoc with my blood glucose levels, but after the age of fifty the almost immediate inflammatory response (edema) not only made me look like a frump, it actually made me feel quite queasy. I may forever mourn their loss, but for me it’s a case of R.I.P. potatoes!
Another thing that peeves me is cheese! It’s virtually impossible to be a non-meat eater on compassionate grounds and still follow Primal principles without eating eggs and cheese. Unfortunately, almost all vegetarian recipes seem to ignore the fact that the most wonderful-tasting, beautifully-textured, traditionally-made cheeses, such as Parmesan, Gruyere and Mozzarella, are totally unsuitable for vegetarians. Whilst I’ve found good-enough substitutes for Parmesan and Mozzarella, I have still not found a copy-cat vegetarian version of Gruyere D.O.P. that’s available to retail customers, which can emulate anything like Gruyere’s unique melting quality and depth of flavour. Even if you can get past the ‘no-no’ of cheese made with calf rennet, there’s still the massive cruelty involved in milk production generally, and the nutritional degradation that occurs with pasteurised milk taken from grain-fed cows. Given that not all cheese is created equal, there is one family-run traditional cheese dairy that I am happy to be acquainted with because they share Primal Plate’s ethos - a passionate commitment to animal welfare and human health. This family run business makes award-winning, artisan, vegetarian cheeses from the raw milks of free-range, grass-fed cows, goats and ewes. In this day and age of intensive factory farming, small enterprises such as The Traditional Cheese Dairy make my heart sing. Not only because they fly in the face of extreme human exploitation of animals inherent in the dairy industry, but also because their end-products taste so good and are naturally healthful to animals and humans alike. I know it isn’t always practical, but please try to seek out and support all farmers that treat their animals as animals - not just a commodity for ‘growing’ meat or as 24/7 milking machines. Raw milk from free-range, grass-fed cows is not only better for the animals it is far, far better for you.
Wherever you shop, substitute any mature, organic, vegetarian Cheddar in recipes that call for Gruyere. You may need to ask for advice at the Deli counter. It is often a case of trial and error when you’re trying to find a decent tasting vegetarian Cheddar cheese that doesn’t disintegrate into an oil-slick when baked or grilled! I will keep you posted if and when I find the perfect one!
Rant over, I have stopped arguing with reality long enough to create a potato-like dauphinoise using that great potato ‘pretender’…celeriac. Whilst the finished result isn’t as pillow-soft as cooked potatoes, cheesy gratins and bakes always have the yummy, comfort factor that low-carbers sometimes crave - and this cheese-topped Celeriac Dauphinois is no exception. I’ve lightened-up the full-on fat experience of double cream and cheese (oftentimes called for in traditional dauphinoise recipes), by substituting dry white wine for most of the cream. The crispy, crunchy cheesy topping speaks for itself. All in all, much tastier and less rich, Celeriac Dauphinois is an excellent low-carbohydrate main course for a light family supper or when entertaining vegetarians. It’s equally delicious served as a vegetable accompaniment.
3 medium/large shallots, finely sliced
2 small celeriac, total weight about 900g
½ lemon, juiced
2 tbsp fresh lemon thyme, leaves only
2 tbsp olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
150 ml dry white wine (I used a dry, white Spanish Rioja)
60 ml organic double cream
165g Gruyere (or mature, vegetarian Cheddar), finely grated
60g Parmesan (or Parmesan-style cheese), freshly grated
Pre-heat the oven to 190℃ / 375℉ / Gas mark 5
Fill a large bowl with cold fresh water and add the lemon juice.
Cut the top and bottom off the celeriac and then stand flat on a chopping board. With a sharp knife cut off the thick skin working all the way around the celeriac from top to bottom.
Cut each peeled celeriac into 4 quarters.
Using the thinnest slicer on a food processor, a hand-held mandolin slicer or a very sharp knife, cut the celeriac into 3mm thin slices. Put the celeriac slices into the lemon water to prevent them discolouring.
If not done already, finely slice the shallots.
Heat the butter and olive oil together in a large pan until the butter has melted.
Drain the celeriac then either spin in a salad spinner or dry on a clean tea-towel.
Add the shallots and drained celeriac to the pan. Continue to cook over a medium heat for about 5 minutes, turning the vegetables over now and again to make sure that everything is well coated in the olive oil and butter.
Season with salt, freshly ground pepper and nutmeg then pour in the wine and continue to cook for about 10-12 minutes more with the pan lid on, stirring occasionally, until the celeriac is just tender.
Tip the contents of the pan into a gratin dish. Scatter half the thyme leaves over the top then drizzle over the double cream and flatten the slices of celeriac down so they’re submerged as much as possible under the liquid.
Mix the two grated cheeses i.e. Gruyere & Parmesan (or vegetarian substitutes) together, then sprinkle on top of the celeriac in a thick even layer. Cover the dish with tin foil.
Place in the pre-heated oven and cook for 20 minutes.
Remove the foil, then place back in the oven for a further 20-25 minutes until bubbling and golden brown.
Remove from the oven and allow to stand for 2 minutes.
Scatter over the rest of the thyme leaves before serving with a fresh green salad.
Cheese has a tendency to break down when cooked at high temperatures. The maximum temperature you should bake this dauphinoise - and any other cheesy casserole - is 190℃ / 375℉ / Gas mark 5, or below. If the cheese does separate and you’re left with a layer of fat sat on the surface of your Celeraic Dauphinoise, lightly dab off the excess oil with sheets of paper towel before allowing to stand for a couple of minutes prior to serving. It will still taste good!
If you like your cheese topping really brown and crozzly a couple of minutes under a very hot grill at the end of the cooking time should do the trick.
Only buy small heads of celeriac - larger specimens can lack flavour, tend to be a bit woody and are much more unwieldy to peel and slice.
Carbohydrate 23g Protein 17g - per serving