Come closer, I have a secret to tell you. Huddle round, concentrate and I will expand.
I have given up on vegetarianism and am now a committed carnivore. Part of me is still rather ashamed of this; 20 years as a vegetarian, latterly with fish thrown in. I apologise to the cows, pigs, lambs, chickens and ducks (and there will be a few more mammals and birds on that list too, once I’ve sampled them) for my mean contrivance to end their lives. Particularly apologies should go to the pigs, as sausages and black pudding are now among my favourite foods.
When you’ve been a vegetarian for as long as I had, it felt like part of my identity. And it made me feel like a nicer, morally superior person as I was not the type to be swayed by a bacon sandwich the way folklore has it for many would-be veggies and the world was not cutting down swathes of forest on my behalf to feed up animal protein. Plus, I love animals, I really, really do and commercial meat production can be absolutely disgusting.
Here’s the rub though. I mostly follow a low carb diet to keep my blood sugar levels as stable as possible. I stumbled across this a few years ago through Dr Richard Bernstein’s book, The Diabetes Solution. He’s a pretty impressive individual – he put himself through medical school so that he could prove his own theories on diabetes management – but heavens, his methods are very, very strict indeed, with a daily intake of just 40g of carbohydrate (6g for breakfast, 12 for lunch and dinner). I like to eat a bit more veg and fruit so I aim for about 75g a day.
I’d coped with a low-carbohydrate diet initially by adding fish to my diet. After a while, it began to feel a bit monotonous – fish, cheese and eggs day in day out – so I added in meat some weeks ago. In an attempt to keep some virtue to my food choices, I’ve only been eating meat from our local butcher, which is locally sourced, grass-fed and bred in reasonably good conditions.
It turns out that I really love meat. A great, juicy burger topped with cheese (sans bun, obviously), good quality bacon, black pudding, meat loaf, slow-cooked shoulder of lamb… Experiments have been plentiful and fun. The only thing I haven’t been fussed about was steak. The cheap cuts are the best – which is just as well, given my lack of regular income these days.
Anyway, in a final homage to my vegetarian years, I thought I’d share with you a favourite recipe; Spicy ratatouille cooked in the slow cooker. The great thing about cooking the veg this way is that they maintain their shape much better than when you cook it on top of the stove and it’s really, really delicious. Top it with crumbled goat’s cheese and brown it briefly under the grill.
Spicy Ratatouille – serves 4
- 1 large aubergine
- 1 large onion
- 1 large courgette
- 1 red pepper
- 1 fennel bulb
- 500ml passata
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 green chilli, diced (keep the seeds in for extra heat)
- 1tsp tomato puree
- 1tsp caster sugar
- 2tbsp olive oil
- Salt and pepper
Chop the aubergine, red pepper and courgette into equal-sized chunks. Slip the top off the fennel and cut into big slices. Finely dice the onion. Put all of the ingredients into your slow cooker and top up with a little extra water (about 50-100ml). Cover and cook on a low setting for 3-4 hours.
For the record, each portion of this has approximately 149 calories and 18g carbohydrate.