Saturday, May 29, 2010

Low Carb, No Carb, Snacks

No-carb food for a picnic. Not too difficult if we think along the lines of think cold meats (ham, beef, sausages, corned beef, chicken, turkey, cold cooked salmon...) to be eaten with boxed salads of various kinds (coleslaw, mixed salad leaves, etc, but not potato salad) Mayonnaise and salad dressings are all able to be used. Crispy bacon also eats well with salad. Or is this too boring?

Alternatively make up a Coronation Chicken to be eaten with salad, or bind diced cooked chicken in a (canned) tuna cream sauce (made with may0, flaked tuna and a little cream).
The packs of thinly sliced chorizo are good as a snack/picnic food when the chorizo is rolled round a tube of crisp iceberg lettuce (or vice versa). These could be prepared in advance or the pack opened at the picnic and the 'rolls' made up on site. Thinly siced ham 'cornets' can also be filled with salads to make it look that little bit different.
Those small curved leaves of Little Gem lettuce make good 'holders' for fillings and are easy to eat when held in the hand. These could be filled 'on site' with hot chilli con carne (leave out the red beans if you wish) or curry(taken in a flask to keep hot), or fill with the Coronation chicken et al.

Eggs always make good snacks/picnic food. Either eaten hard-boiled as -is, or slice the h.b. eggs in half and coat them with a mixture of mayo/cream or mayo/yogurt with a good pinch of paprika as garnish. Many dishes that use pancakes as a 'wrapper' will work just as well omitting the flour and milk, and just frying a thin layer of beaten egg on one side only to use in the same way as a true 'pancake'. Slide each as made (one egg should make 3), onto a plate and use each to roll around a filling.

A version of yesterday's recipe for Spanish omelette would make good picnic fare. Omit the potatoes and include peas, diced red bell peppers, onions, mushrooms etc (bacon as well if you wish) and lightly fry before covering with beaten eggs and leave to cook until set. Serve hot or cold in wedges.

Alternatively try this recipe for an elaborate savoury omelette/tortilla. Basically, it is an omelette 'stack' of alternating red and green layers, with a cheese filling between. Easy enough to adapt by using other green and red vegetables. If you wish to incorporate grated cheese into the omelettes and omit some or all of the veggies, then a tomato (pizza type) sauce could be spread between the layers.
To make a good looking 'cake' choose a frying pan that will make omelettes the same size as the width of a cake tin you are using. Do not make less layers if wishing to cook for less people, just use less ingredients and use in a smaller frying pan, and cake tin. This 'cake' looks (and cuts) better when it has several layers, than just a few large ones.
Omelette Cake: serves 10
10 eggs
salt and pepper
1 tsp olive oil
2 courgettes, finely chopped
1 shallot, finely chopped
4 roasted red peppers (from a jar) drained and chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
1 red chilli, deseeded and chopped
10 oz (300g) low-fat soft cheese (Philly type)
5 tblsp milk
3 tblsp chopped fresh chives
2 tblsp chopped fresh basil
salt and pepper
Break the eggs into 2 bowls (5 in each). Lightly beat adding seasoning to taste. Put the oil in a pan and lightly fry the shallots and courgettes until softened. Remove from heat and leave to cool, then when cold stir into one of the bowls of eggs.
Into the second bowl stir in the prepared roasted peppers, the garlic and the chilli.
Pour each mixture into measuring jugs and - adding a little oil or butter to a frying pan and when hot- add one third of one of the jug to the pan, swirling it round to cover the base. Cook until the top is set, then turn and cook the other side (if the omelette is large, slide the pancake onto a plate and invert it back into the pan to cook the other side). Stack the made omelettes on top of each other.
Repeat with the rest of the mixtures - making three omelettes with the green courgettes, and three with the red peppers, but stack each type separately.
Make the filling by beating the cheese with enough of the milk to make a spreading consistency, then fold in the herbs, adding seasoning to taste.
Take a cake tin (same width as the pancakes) and line with clingfilm. Find the most attractive red omelette, and place this best side down on a pastry board, and spread with a thin layer of the filling. Place this in the cake tin (best side still down), and then spread a green pancake with filling and place this on top. Repeat by alternating red and green pancakes spread with filling, but finishing with a plain omelette.
Fold overlapping clingfilm over the pancakes and chill for up to 24 hours.
To serve, fold open the cling film, invert the 'cake' onto a serving plate, and peel off the cling film. Serve cut into wedges.

The problem with a lot of picnic food is that bread/pastry/ flour etc is normally used to make containers or as a 'coating'. And this means adding carbohydrates. Rice paper rolls do not contain THAT many carbohydrates and at least are not wheat-based (which is often a carbo/allergy problem), so for those who are almost-but-not-quite cutting out carbos here is a recipe using rice paper.

A reminder that potatoes do contain carbohydrate, so avoid potato crisps, although it might be possible to find other 'crisps' that are lower in carbs - look for parsnip crisps, carrot crisps and similar crisps and read the back of the pack to see their carbo content.

Here are a few recipes that I hope will avoid too many carbs, and still be enjoyable as a snack or picnic food.
The first made with cooked prawns, need no cooking, and can be assembled up to four hours ahead of eating, but make sure the rolls stay fresh by covering with a clean damp cloth/damp kitchen paper. Either make the dipping sauce and take it to the picnic in a lidded box, or take a jar of sweet chilli sauce and decant that into a bowl on site (adding a little fresh lime juice). If you haven't got Chinese leaves, use crisp iceberg lettuce.

If the prawns are bought cooked in shell, this will need removing and also the little black 'vein' that runs along the top/back of each prawn. Save all the shells/heads (but not the veins) and bag up and freeze - these will later make a good fish stock.
There is no reason why prepared frozen prawns cannot be used as soon as they are defrosted and drained, and they don't even need to be the larger ones as the small almost-shrimp-sized (and cheaper) frozen prawns could be used instead. Personally, to make it easier to assemble the rolls, would myself mix the tiny prawns in with the vegetable mixture.
A vegetarian version could be made by omitting the prawns and substituting bean sprouts and sliced red radishes.
Prawn Rolls with Dipping Sauce: makes 12
1 lb (500g) cooked medium prawns
half pint measure finely shredded Chinese leaves
4 oz (100g) coarsely grated carrot
1 tblsp each coarsely chopped fresh mint and fresh coriander
12 x 16cm round rice paper wrappers
Mix the Chinese leaves, carrot and herbs together.
Cover a pastry board (or work surface) with a damp tea towel, placing a bowl of warm water at the side.
Place one sheet of rice paper in the warm water until softened, then place on the tea towel. Spoon a tablespoon of the mixture in the centre of the paper, topping with 2 medium prawns. Fold side over to encase the ends, then roll up to enclose the filling completely. Repeat with remaining rice paper and fillings.
Cover rolls with damp kitchen paper to prevent them drying out. These can be made up to four hours ahead (keep chilled if a warm day). Make the dipping sauce, and then serve the rolls with this sauce.
dipping sauce:
3 oz (75g) caster sugar
2 fl oz (60ml) white vinegar
2 fl oz (60ml) water
2 tsp fish sauce
2 fresh small red thai chillies, sliced thinly
1 tblsp chopped fresh coriander
Put the sugar, water and vinegar into a small pan and stir-heat until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil then remove from heat. Stir in fish sauce and chillies and leave to cool. Stir in coriander prior to serving.

This next recipe is for spicy chicken drumsticks that initially need marinating for at least three hours - and preferably overnight. Although the recipe as given suggests griddling, grilling or barbecuing the drumsticks, they can be first in the oven then char-grilled for a short-time to give a more barbie effect if that is what you are after. If you do not wish to use food colouring, add a little condensed tomato puree to give the traditional red colour.
Tandoori Chicken: 12 drumsticks to serve 4
12 chicken drumsticks
5 fl oz (150ml) plain yogurt
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp sweet paprika pepper
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
few drops of red food colouring
(lime and mango pickles for serving)
Slash the chicken across the thickest part in three places.
Mix together the yogurt, spices, garlic and food colouring (or tomato paste) in a large bowl, then place in the chicken, spooning over the marinade to coat all sides, rubbing it into the slashes. Cover and chill for 3 hours or overnight.
Remove chicken from bowl (without draining) and cook in oven (or on griddle or barbecue) until browned all over and cooked through.
Eat hot or cold with Indian pickles.

Final suggestion is a few recipes that make good sturdy dips that can be eaten with prepared 'crudites' (crisp raw vegetables such as carrot sticks, stick of celery and cucumber, strips of red and yellow bell peppers, cauliflower florets, and halved closed cap mushrooms. Those not concerned with omitting carbos can also use breadsticks or the crispy tortilla chips as 'dippers'.

One of the easiest dips to make is folding in one teaspoon of mild curry paste and 1 tsp mango chutney into a small tub of creme fraiche (or thick yogurt).

Below are a few recipes forl 'thick' dips (the type that won't drip down as you pass the food from bowl to mouth (but just be careful with the beetroot one).
Aubergine Dip:
1 large aubergine (approx 1 lb/500g)
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tblsp Greek yogurt
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
1 tblsp red wine vinegar
2 tblsp olive oil
1 handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
Stab the aubergine all over with a fork, then wrap lightly in foil. Either barbecue or oven bake until soft (this can take about an hour). Cool, then scoop flesh out from the skin (the skin can then be discarded). Put the aubergine flesh into a blender/food processor with the onion, yogurt, vinegar and oil, and pulse/blitz until just combined, but not smooth like a puree.
Fold in the parsley, cover and chill before eating.

Not quite Guacamole:
1 large avocado
2 fl oz (60g) creme fraiche (or soft cream cheese)
2 fl oz (75g) mayonnaise
1 tsp Tabasco sauce
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
handful coriander leaves
tablespoon of lime or lemon juice
Put everything into a blender or food processor and pulse until just smooth. Cover and chill. Best eaten shortly after making.

Beetroot Dip:
8 oz (225g) cooked beetroot
2 fl oz (60g) Greek yogurt
1 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cumin
As above dips - blend or process all ingredients together until just combined.

Sweet Chill Dip:
9 oz (250g) cream cheese (philly type)
2 fl oz (60g) sweet chilli sauce
1 tblsp freshly chopped coriander
Put all ingredients into a bowl and mix well together using a fork.

If wishing for picnic desserts, then probably fresh fruit eaten with cream or yogurt would be the easiest (and healthiest) suggestion, but depending upon chosen picnic foods the following might be a more luxurious alternative. If you haven't marsala wine, a little diluted port could be used, or just a well flavoured red wine.
Alternatively use some other sort of flavouring, such as grated orange zest and grated chocolate. On a really hot day use a spoon instead of the chocolate flake. Those not worried about carbs may prefer to use sponge fingers instead of the 'flakes'.
Creamy Almond dessert: serves 4
9 oz (250g) mascarpone cheese
2 tblsp marsala (or other - see above)
2 oz (50g) sugared almonds, finely chopped
4 fl oz (125ml) whipped cream
1 tbslp honey
2 - 4 chocolate flakes
Mix everything together in a bowl (if not eaten immediately, cover and chill). Serve in individual dishes. Insert in each each half or a whole chocolate flake to use as a 'spoon'.