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Baking without grain flour or sugar.

30 Dec

I love baking.

Increasingly I’m finding it difficult to bake sugar and grain-rich items while I encourage people to follow a low sugar and low grain diet. Here then is my beta version of carrot cake without grain flour and sugar. I used pureed banana in place of the sugar to add sweetness and volume to the beaten egg and oil (using olive oil instead of sunflower seed oil).

JP keen to try a slice.

JP keen to try a slice.

I didn’t have sufficient carrots so used zucchini too which works well enough. The coconut flour absorbs liquid at a far greater rate than cake flour does so I will use a third less the next time I make it. The olive oil imparts a flavour to this cake that is not entirely desirable but I’m loathed to use coconut oil instead as it is so costly. I plan to beef up the cinnamon to make it a more pronounced flavour.

While this dish meets many Paleo requirements it is still high in energy and fat because of the coconut flour, olive oil and banana.

Will let you know how the next one turns out but welcome any input if you’ve managed to bake successfully without sugar or grain flour.

Carrot cake without grain flour or sugar.

Carrot cake without grain flour or sugar.

An open letter to the medical profession

17 Dec

It saddens but doesn’t surprise me that there is such a vitriolic response to Prof Tim Noakes’ recommendation of a low carbohydrate, high fat diet to achieve sustainable weight loss. It saddens me because I, and so many of us, have elevated the medical profession to a higher level of trust than other professions and it takes much to feel we can question or challenge a doctor’s prescription. It doesn’t surprise me though as the groundswell of popular support threatens the status quo. It is becoming much harder for medical professionals to diagnose, prescribe and engage with patients to discuss their thoughts in the 15-minute billing increment.

But times have changed. Prescriptions are no longer written in latin to maintain the veil of mystery and in today’s connected world, access to knowledge from the globe’s most respected universities, is a click away.

Perhaps the time has also changed around the closed-mindedness (and, in my judgement, fear-based protectionism) by the medical profession in only considering randomised controlled studies as the basis for revisiting what was once believed to be true.

The reason, to my mind, anyway, why Prof Noakes is so vilified is that he is not satisfied to simply publish his findings in the popular press and discuss them on talk-shows. He needs to, and has, shared his opinions and findings within the sacred pages of the SA Medical Journal – a move too far for the establishment which has responded with fear and ridicule. It is this point that disappoints me the most. Instead of engaging in robust debate and re-thinking to help shape a new way  to manage obesity the medical profession appears to me to simply be protecting its position.

It is a fact that obesity and the lifestyle diseases that stem from it threatens not only our nation and health-care budget but also those of many countries abroad. Surely, if for no other reason, this has to mean that the existing approach to healthy-weight management is not working?

Prof Noakes is so committed to his view that there is another way to manage obesity that he risks professional persecution for it.

I am not alone in my appreciation to him for doing so. As someone who successfully managed to shed 70kg and have maintained the same healthy weight for 10 months now, I am hugely grateful for his outspokenness and fervour. Of course there are many factors that have contributed to my successful weight loss but I believe that the main one was my new-found appreciation that I was addicted to sugars and starch-based carbohydrates. It was only after purging myself from these toxins to my body that I was able to manage and maintain my weight loss. It is true that the terror of pending weight-loss surgery helped focus my mind on the reality of the problem but it is also true that eating a diet similar to what he recommends has allowed me to feel sated and without the cravings that haunted and ultimately undermined every other diet.

Rather than investing so much in dismissing Prof Noakes I would have preferred his detractors to mobilise a study to test his theories.


My connections to royalty run fairly deep.

7 Oct

Brilliant Table Mountain views from Den Anker.

Brilliant Table Mountain views from Den Anker.

We once slept in the same bed as The King of Sweden. Not, admittedly, at the same time, but immediately after, at Lion Sands Ivory Lodge in Sabi Sands reserve. Although not royalty by the blue-blood variety, we also spent the night in the same bed at The Vineyard Hotel as Stephen Hawking and found his pyjamas under the pillow when we retired. But, for now anyway, I’m writing about our connection to the Belgian royals.

In 2006 I was hired by Den Anker Belgian restaurant ahead of the now King, then Crown Prince Philippe of Belgium. It was the start of a long and happy association with mussels and chips, chips and mayo, Belgian beers and the now late Denis Bouckaert and his wife Lies. I also got to know restaurant manager Rejeanne and chef Doekler too who soon after married and now run Den Anker and a new Belgian beer import business. I digress.

As I hardly eat out nowadays and then only steak or high-protein foods with a side of low-carb vegetables it had been an age since I returned to eat again at Den Anker. When you sit there, with Table Mountain looming large through the pavilion-style building and seals and dragon-boat teams entertaining you in the water, it is easy to fall in love with all the good things about the Waterfront all over again.

We started with mussels but without the chips and Doekler sent a gift of seared tuna with sesame/wasabi dressing as a fore spice. The tuna is really fabulous but I’d forgotten about how much I love the way Den Anker prepares their mussels. The broth tastes like a herby sea. While they use beer in their recipe and, as you know, I don’t drink alcohol, I’m happy to order this dish as I think the alcohol evaporates during cooking.

Mussels without chips

Mussels without chips

The pepper fillet is a real classic and doesn’t need a sauce as the meat is encrusted with pepper but as I was feeling greedy I had the cream-based pepper sauce – the combination of which left my mouth zinging for more.

Perfect Pepper Steak at Den Anker

Perfect Pepper Steak at Den Anker

On chatting to Rejeanne after dinner she tells me that the Belgian Royal Family is returning to Cape Town and to Den Anker later this month. Seems the royals and I are as closely knit as I’d like to believe.

I wonder when Kate and Will might call to invite us to tea.



Steak and tomato cocktail match bloodlust and high-protein dining out

10 Aug

Belthazar T-Bone

Belthazar T-Bone

Many people are interested in what eat now that I’ve reached my goal weight and ask if I will ever go back to eating starch, sugar or drink alcohol. I won’t – I’m just too frightened of undoing the good work and, what’s more, I no longer crave carbs and don’t want to introduce something I was once addicted to back into my system.

There seems to be a lot of interest in what I and those who follow a low-carb, high protein diet can order at restaurants. I like to order steak and salad.

Recently, at Belthazar at the V&A Waterfront, Cape Town, for one of their signature Chicago-cut steaks, I was thrilled to see that the menu price is for steak alone and the extras are, well, extra. I prefer this to feeling I’m missing out by skipping the starch. Too many restaurants include creamed spinach and butternut as their standard vegetable fare which is a pity as butternut is too high in carbohydrate for me to eat.

The Chicago cut is a rib-eye steak on the bone and it has a lot of flavour. Although my bloodlust is usually only satisfied when red juices are dripping down my jowls, at Belthazar they recommend the Chicago cut be cooked to medium. This is the temperature at which the gelatinous connective tissues break down. It can be very stringy to eat otherwise.

All steaks are grilled with a basting of Olive oil and optional pepper crust (which I had) or what they call their House Basting which is a tangy BBQ-sauce. As sauces go, good, well-aged meat such as they serve, can do without but, as I felt like spoiling myself, I ordered the béarnaise (R26) – a butter and egg-yolk emulsion with a tang of tarragon vinegar. Most other sauces are thickened with flour which I try to avoid, even in small doses. Their sauces are sufficient for two.

Stylish clubby-atmosphere at Belthazar.

Stylish clubby-atmosphere at Belthazar.

At R279 for 500g this isn’t an inexpensive cut but I think it is worth it. There are times when what I really want to eat is a slab of delicious meet. When this happens again I’ll even consider 700g for R405 or the 1kg cut for R520 remembering that leftover steak makes a great lunch, thinly sliced into a salad. Incidentally, my top-tip for entertaining lavishly but cost effectively is to oven roast a whole beef fillet and freeze leftovers.

I like to order a salad as my dessert course. I find it hard to watch others eating while I’m not and a Caesar salad (R76) satisfies both my need for crispy greens and cheese. I ask them to hold the croutons and, while I prefer the anchovies to be incorporated into the sauce, theirs was among the better Caesars I’ve had.

A tomato cocktail makes a good no-alcohol drink for someone who also avoids fizzy drinks and fruit juices. I had to have red dripping from my mouth one way or the other.