Quick supper solutions from the fab new cookbook, 'Low-Carb Express'
Vickie de Beer, previous winner of the Sunday Times Cookbook of the Year for her first cookbook, The Low Carb Solution for Diabetics, has now published Low-Carb Express (Penguin Random House SA, R320).
Here, she shares recipes from her new book, her favourite gadgets, and insight into why a no carb/low carb lifestyle is close to her heart.
Where does the interest in no/low carb come from?
My son, Lucca, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when he was eight years old. For years we followed the advice of dietitians to feed Lucca a high-carb diet and to count the carbohydrates to work out insulin dosages.
Although his HBA1C (his average blood sugar) was quite good, he still had fluctuations in his blood sugars. Doctors could not explain to us how to reduce these fluctuations because we were doing everything by the book.
In 2014, I met professor Tim Noakes at the launch of the Real Meal Revolution and the things he spoke about changed my perception. He explained that refined carbs like sugar, starches, flour, pasta and rice were actually causing high blood sugar, inflammation and heart disease. I was convinced to change our diet to a low-carb diet but I could not find clarity on how Lucca would still get the much-needed insulin he required.
I then met a fellow type 1 mom, Ronel Hentschel, who introduced me to Dr Bernstein in the US. He explained that you can use insulin to cover protein because it also has a glucose response in the blood. This response called protein gluconeogenesis is much slower and steadier than the fast release of high-glucose carbs. Protein is combined with nutritionally dense fibrous vegetables that are low in carbs and do not cause spikes in blood sugar levels.
We started to follow this diet and it improved Lucca's time in range and his overall health.
We understand you not only wrote the cookbook, cooked all the dishes and styled the pics, you did the photography as well.
We emigrated to the Netherlands in the beginning of 2020. After only one month here the Netherlands went into total lockdown because of Covid-19. I could not shoot the recipe book with a photographer because of the lockdown and we took the plunge and bought a camera.
I did an online photography course and with lots of help from my photographer friends (and years of experience as a food stylist) I started to shoot the images for the book.
Lucca (now 19) helped me as my assistant and it was a really special project for us.
There is such low-carb innovation in your new cookbook, like the cabbage pasta and a pizza base made from chicken and cheese. How did you stumble on this idea?
Some of the ideas have been born out of a need for variety in our diet. Like the cabbage noodles, we always ate zucchini noodles to replace pasta and just needed a change after so many years. It was a happy discovery for us because the sauce really coated the cabbage noodles well.
The pizza was also in desperation because our normal low-carb pizza was based on almond flour and mozzarella and it started to spike Lucca's blood sugar for some reason.
Do you think your move to the Netherlands has inspired the Express part, being able to deliver a meal to the table in record time?
Yes, also to keep washing up to a minimum! It was inspired by people who said they could never eat low carb because it takes up too much time to prepare it. I wanted to show that you can still make healthy food even if you have only five minutes available.
List five essential ingredients every no-carb/low-carb cook should have in their store cupboard.
- Italian whole peeled tomatoes
- Coconut cream
- Olive oil
- Quality salt, like Himalayan salt or Maldon salt
- Garam masala (curry spice)
As a chef, what three essential gadgets, apart from knives, can you not cook without?
- My Magimix food processor
- My stick blender (immersion blender)
- A colander (for draining all the low-carb vegetables)
DE BEER'S DELICIOUS LOW-CARB RECIPES
ONE-PAN GREEK CHICKEN
“Greek food is naturally low in carbs, as well as being fresh and nutritious. I love the flavours — they marry so well,” says De Beer.
8 chicken thighs, deboned and skinless, quartered
Salt to taste
30ml (2 tbsp) extra-virgin olive oil
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
10ml (2 tsp) dried organum
2 x 400g cans Italian chopped tomatoes
100g feta, crumbled
100g pitted kalamata olives
A handful of fresh organum and basil
- Heat a large frying pan over high heat.
- Place the chicken pieces in a bowl and season with salt. Add the olive oil, lemon zest and lemon juice and mix through.
- Add the chicken to the pan and cook for 5 minutes on all sides.
- Add the onion, garlic and dried organum to the chicken in the pan and cook for 2 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes and stir through. Season lightly with salt and simmer for 4 minutes.
- Sprinkle over the feta and olives and simmer for a further 2 minutes.
- Serve warm topped with fresh organum and basil.
- You can substitute the chicken thighs with chicken fillets.
- Add a cinnamon stick for an even more authentic Greek flavour, but remember to remove it before serving.
- Add a chopped green chilli for extra zing.
CREAMY FISH CHOWDER
“You will not find an easier recipe for seafood than this. I learnt it from Darina Allen at her cooking school in Ireland,” says De Beer.
1 onion, quartered
1 celery stick
1 garlic clove
30ml (2 tbsp) butter
Grated zest of 1 lemon
125ml (½ cup) white wine
375ml (1½ cups) cream
300 naturally smoked fish fillets such as haddock, snoek or salmon
150g prawns, cleaned
400g sustainable white fish fillets such as hake
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
A handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- Heat a large, deep frying pan or medium saucepan over medium to high heat.
- Place the onion, celery and garlic in the bowl of a food processor and quickly pulse until roughly chopped.
- Add the butter and lemon zest to the pan, followed by the chopped vegetables. Cook for 3 minutes.
- Reduce the heat to medium and add the wine and cream. Simmer for 3 minutes.
- Add the smoked fish, prawns and white fish to the pan, cover with a lid and simmer for 7 minutes or until the seafood is cooked.
- Season well with salt and black pepper and sprinkle over the parsley before serving.
- Buy cleaned or cooked prawns to save time.
- Add a handful of cleaned mussels to the soup when you add the fish. Discard any unopened mussels before serving.
- Substitute the cream with coconut cream if you do not eat dairy.