The recent rash of books on diet and weight reduction points to carbohydrates as the root cause of obesity and abnormal metabolism – the chemical process which transforms food into fuel.
The truth, however, is the opposite: carbs play a positive role. They are involved in energy production, water balance and a host of other functions. But you have to use them with intelligence and not indulgence. Says the College of Family Physicians of Canada .
Many people are confused about carbohydrates. We do need them to function, but it is vitally important that they should be the right kind of carbs. Just limiting or counting the numbers, is where so many of us go wrong.
What are these ‘right kind of carbs’?
You won’t be surprised to hear that whole wheat bread, oats, rye and wholegrain pasta, are better choices than highly refined white, or French fries. The healthiest sources of carbohydrates are unprocessed or minimally processed grains, vegetables, fruits and beans. They deliver vitamins, minerals, fiber, and a host of important nutrients.
Unhealthy sources include white bread, pastries, sodas, and other highly processed or refined foods. These are easily digested, which means that they may well cause weight gain, and promote diabetes and heart disease .
Carbohydrates are of special importance for people with type 2 diabetes. Carb counting is often treated as the holy grail of treatment. But plain ‘carb counting’ ignores one very important fact, namely this difference between simple and complex carbs.
Complex carbs, like whole grains, are low glycemic index foods. Which means they take more time to be broken down and digested. This prevents a sudden rise in the level of blood sugar and insulin levels. They also keep you filled for longer, and thereby reduce the craving for unhealthy snacks.
Consider the four major categories of foods that have carbs: fruits, vegetables, grains, and dairy. Many of the individual foods in those categories are nutrition powerhouses. They contain fiber, and the more fiber a food contains, the less quickly your blood sugar will react. Veggies and fruits are a great source of vitamins and minerals. Dairy products provide calcium and in many cases vitamin D. Carbs like these are a very efficient form of energy.
Simple carbs, like sugar and white bread, have hardly any nutritional value and, worse, cause an almost immediate increase in your blood glucose levels. 
veg: aubergines, french/runner/broad beans, calabrese, cauli, cucumbers, fennel, chard, spinach (beet), summer squash, sweetcorn, globe artichokes, beet, carrots, courgettes, cabbage, kohlrabi, lettuce, peas, peppers, radish, turnip, marrow, tomatoes, spring onions, salsify/scorzonera, samphire, rocket, watercress.
Cheap, free range good-for-you meat: rabbit and wood pigeon. Puffballs!
Fish is excellent at this time of year: mackerel, hake, black bream, crab, grey mullet, trout, scallops, sea bass, flounder.
Chinese cabbage, spring cabbage, chicory, kohl rabi, lettuce for harvesting November/December, quick variety peas, mooli (=white) and black radish, chard, spinach beet. Lamb’s lettuce (corn salad), rocket and especially land cress will survive the winter.
Perpetual spinach, (spinach beet, or leaf beet) tastes as good as ‘true’ spinach, is more forgiving of soil and weather and doesn’t go to seed so quickly. Sow now for winter/spring crop.
Early August only: chard, florence fennel, spring onions, turnip.
And don’t forget that for successful winter growing, there are many seeds which can be sown this time of the year, in late summer/early autumn: see http://www.verticalveg.org.uk/winter-growing-its-time-to-plan-and-sow/. I specially recommend the lovely white and black radishes, so welcome in winter and early spring.
FRENCH or RUNNER BEAN PATTIES
300g French or runner beans, 2 small eggs, 25g grated mature cheese, 4 tblsp flour, olive oil, 1 tsp tomato puree, seasoning.
Cook the beans, chop quite finely. Mix all ingredients bar the oil and make into patties. Fry in the oil, both sides.
SIDE DISH of SAUTEED LETTUCE and COTTAGE CHEESE*
Cut your lettuce up in, very roughly, something like 2-3 cm squares. Sauté for a few minutes in half butter and half olive oil, stirring regularly. Mix in some (ideally full-fat) cottage cheese, herbs and/or spices, maybe olives, and let this through. Serve as a side dish, or try on toast.
* The fat in here helps absorb the nutrients and does not make you fat !
Gently sauté chopped garlic for 3-4 mins in fat/oil until fragrant without letting it brown. Add 360ml water, cauliflower, and salt. Bring to the boil, lower heat, cover, and let it simmer for 8-10 mins, until the cauli is soft tender. Remove from heat. Let cool for a couple of minutes and pour into food processor or blender. Add 2 tblsp of milk and, optional, nutritional yeast. Puree until creamy smooth. Season.
This recipe is slightly more complicated than my normal fare. Don’t be put off by all the ingredients: use what you have, and/or substitute, and don’t worry! You can make lots and freeze some for the future.
ALOO KEEMA – MINCED LAMB with POTATOES
450g minced lamb, 2 cubed potatoes, cubed, 3 tblsp oil, 1 bay leaf, ½ tsp mustard, 3 green cardamom pods, cracked open, 2.5cm cinnamon stick, 2 chopped onions, 3 chopped garlic cloves, ½ tsp ginger, 180ml chopped (tinned) tomatoes, 1/4 tsp turmeric, chilli powder, 3 tbsp yoghurt, salt. To garnish – chopped coriander.
Coarsely grind together:-
1 tsp cumin seeds, 1.5 tsp coriander seeds, black peppercorns, 4 cloves, 1/4 tsp fennel seeds.
In a pan with lid, heat up oil slowly. Add bay leaf, cinnamon stick and cardamom pods. Add onions, cook till they turn light brown, 3-5 mins. Add garlic & ginger and saute for about 1 min. Add ground spices, toast for another min. Add tomatoes with turmeric and chilli. Cook for 3-5 mins or till you see oil separating on sides of the pan. Add potatoes, mix, reduce heat to low. Let cook covered for 10-15 mins till the potatoes are nearly done. Remove lid, turn heat to high and add lamb. Heat for ab. 8-10 mins on medium, stirring often. Add yoghurt, 60ml water and salt, mix. Turn heat to lowest possible, cover and simmer for ab. 25 mins. Stir and check periodically to ensure it’s not sticking. Add more water if needed, but not too much!!!! Remove lid, check salt and cook on high again for 5 mins till everything comes together. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves, serve warm with flatbreads & salad.
BRAISED LITTLE GEM LETTUCE
For a delicious alternative to cold salad – cut little gem in half lengthways and rub the cut edge with olive oil and the edge of a cut clove of garlic: season. Place in a hot frying pan or on a barbecue griddle for 2-3 mins on each side.
SPICED RUNNER BEANS, serves 4 as a side dish.
300g runner beans, (1 red or yellow pepper, deseeded and chopped); 1 onion, 2 garlic cloves, 1 tblsp tomato puree, 150ml water, 15ml olive oil, ½ tsp ground coriander seed, ½ tsp ground cumin, ¼ tsp ground chilli or ½ fresh chopped chilli, (pinch of turmeric), soy sauce, salt.
Prepare runner beans: slice on the diagonal. Slice onion and garlic, saute in oil for a few mins. Add spices, continue to saute. If using the pepper: cut in half, remove seeds and cut into thin strips. Add to pan and stir. Add beans, tomato puree and water. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer gently for 5 mins or until the beans are tender. Season with soy and salt if needed.
STIR-FRY GARLIC SPINACH with ANCHOVIES, serves 2
200g spinach leaves (stems removed), 2 tbsp chopped garlic, chopped onion, 1 finely sliced carrot, some anchovies, 2 tbsp olive oil.
Heat oil, sauté onion and garlic. Add sliced carrot and chopped anchovies, stir fry for 3 mins. Add spinach, stir fry briefly. Spinach cooks quickly so take it off the fire as soon as the leaves have softened/wilted. Perpetual spinach may need a bit longer. Good with fish.
AIOLI with STEAMED COLD VEGETABLES
Make the mayonnaise yourself or flavour bottled mayonnaise with lemon, garlic, anchovy, etc. You can add pot marigold petals for looks. Serve with lightly cooked carrots, french beans, sugar snap peas, purple potatoes, seafood, tomatoes etc.
Next month: gluten.
[g] https://www.wellandgood.com/good-food/full-fat-dairy-good-for-you/slide/5/, https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/hsph-in-the-news/full-fat-dairy-may-reduce-obesity-risk/