So, what if you were advised (as someone I know was recently) that, for a period of time at least, you needed to go on a diet which, for reasons of digestive health, involved avoiding all of the following:
- dairy products
- red meat
- raw vegetables
- cruciferous vegetables (such as cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower, cooked or raw)
- fruits with high acid content
- peanuts (raw or in butters)
- pulses in anything other than very small amounts
(Brief pause for exclamation of your choice here.)
Me, I’m well used to a certain level of dietary restriction, having had vegetarian tendencies for a long time. In fact, I daresay a lot of what I cook happens to be vegan, but my first (printable) thought was that, even for someone like me, that list would present a real challenge.
So what could someone eat under this regime, then?
Let’s see… root vegetables are in (so you can still have your daily spud – which is a source of great personal relief, I can tell you); fish and fowl; rice and other non-gluten grains; eggs; some cooked fruits; and what the person in question described as some other “funny foods”…
As I started giving the dilemma some more thought, however, the vista of someone’s future filled to capacity with rice cakes slowly transformed into, well, if not exactly a cornucopia, then at least something more varied. Millet porridge, warm quinoa salads, plenty of root vegetable soups and mash, omelettes, rice pilafs, polenta and a salmon steak or two… Perhaps it wouldn’t be so bad, though eating out would still be difficult at best. The problem, of course, is that even a foodie could start to feel defeated by the challenge of it. There would be a real danger that you might end up by cutting the joy of food out of your diet and that would surely be the worst thing of all.
The trick, I suppose, is not to become overwhelmed by the whole thing. Start with the positives – think of simple things that you can eat and like to eat and always have a supply of those. After that, when you need some variety, take it one recipe at a time. For instance, last night’s dinner of yellow curry (below) wouldn’t quite pass muster, but mainly because of the cauliflower. It’s otherwise dairy-free, gluten-free and vegan, and you could replace the cauliflower with something from the squash family, say, and probably tone down the chili, so that it both made the grade and (even more importantly) retained the joy…
Yellow Curry with Cauliflower and Potato
This is (again) derived from a Madhur Jaffrey recipe for a sauce involving eggs. Not that I don’t like eggs, but I don’t seem to involve them in curries.
The Fresh Stuff:
- About 450g potato, boiled and cooled
- About 300g cauliflower
- About 300g tomatoes
- About 150g garden peas, fresh or frozen
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 4-5 cloves garlic
- 1 inch cube of root ginger
- 1-2 fresh green chilies, finely chopped
The Sauce and Spice:
- 1 x 400g tin coconut milk
- 2.5cm cinnamon stick
- 0.5 tsp turmeric
- 0.5 tsp fenugreek seeds
- 5-6 fresh, or 10 dried, curry leaves
- 1.5 tsp salt (or to taste)
- 2 tblsp lemon juice
- 0.5 tsp garam masala
- Peel the potatoes and chop into 2cm dice.
- Cut the cauliflower into florets. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Add about a tsp of salt and drop in the cauliflower. Let the water return to the boil, and boil rapidly for 30 seconds. Drain and rinse under cold water.
- Drop the tomatoes into some boiling water for about a minute or until the skin starts to come away easily. Peel off any remaining skin and finely chop.
- Peel the ginger and cut into 3 or 4 pieces. Peel the garlic. Put the ginger, garlic and about 50mls of water into a blender or processor and blend to a paste.
- Heat some oil in a large pot or pan over a medium heat. Put in the fenugreek seeds, then a few seconds later, the cinnamon stick. After another few seconds, add the onion and fry for about 2 minutes.
- Add the ginger-garlic paste and chili. Stir and fry for another minute.
- Add the tomatoes, curry leaves and turmeric. Stir and fry for about another 5 minutes – the tomatoes should start to become paste-like.
- Add the coconut milk, cauliflower, potatoes and salt. Stir to mix and bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes.
- Add the peas and lemon juice. Re-cover and simmer for another 5 minutes.
- Sprinkle in the garam masala and stir to mix.
- Serve with rice or breads.
- About 4 good-sized helpings.
- Add sliced french beans instead of (or in addition to) the peas, about 10 mins before the end of cooking.
- I rather fancy that some roasted peanuts would work in this (though obviously not if your diet is peanut-free). I’d add them after frying the onion and before adding the tomato.