As I was whipping up a storm in the kitchen yesterday, I realised that most of my recipes tend to be developed from scratch-i.e. what’s in the cupboard/fridge/garden? I have also started reading up on the so-called “Banting” diet, which promotes a very low-carbohydrate, high fat (LCHF) lifestyle. This diet is being promoted quite widely in South Africa at the moment, especially by Prof. Tim Noakes, who is a well-known sport scientist. I am not going to give an opinion about the LCHF diet specifically, but a quick search of peer-reviewed journal articles shows that a low-carbohydrate diet, with either restricted or no-restriction calorie intake (Mediterranean diet; 1,2) , does result in greater weigh loss and better prognosis for blood sugar and cholesterol than a low-fat diet.
I mentioned in an earlier post that my boyfriend requested that we cut back on the carbs last year after a visit to Germany (I believed he survived on pomme frites and curry wurst). The LCHF diet doesn’t quite fit this, because it does promote very high protein intake, and with the current cost of red meat (and even chicken) in SA, it doesn’t quite fit our pocket to dish up steaks every night. I thus wanted to create a vegetarian (and economic) dish that fits the low-carb, high protein profile, without the high fat, and came up with this deliciously layered lentils in tomato sauce and creamy spinach dish. I replaced the white sauce with double thick Greek yoghurt (which has many health benefits of its own), and added mozzarella but this can be left out if preferred. Lentils, as I have mentioned previously, is also low G.I., very low carb, high in fibre and protein. The perfect replacement for meat!
This recipe gives 4 large portions (and I am looking forward to leftovers as lunch!)
dash olive oil
1 brown onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed or finely chopped
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 tablespoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon good-quality paprika
3 sprigs spring onion, sliced
1 handful fresh basil, finely chopped
2 sprigs fresh thyme, leafs only
1 tin tomato paste (70 grams)
1 can cherry tomatoes
1 1/2 cup brown lentils
1/2 cup water
large bunch spinach (approximately 100 grams, stems removed and finely chopped)
1 cup Greek double cream yoghurt
1 1/2 cup mozzarella
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Heat a dash of olive oil in a large pot over moderate heat. Saute the onion and garlic for 5 minutes, before adding the cumin, coriander and paprika. Fry for 2 minutes before adding the lentils. Once the lentils has been added, stir well, and add the tomato paste and canned cherry tomatoes (or whole peeled tomatoes). Add the thyme and the water, stir, and allow to simmer over low heat for 40 minutes or until thickened, reduced and the lentils are cooked through. Add the fresh basil at the end. To keep the layers separated to a degree, you don’t want the lentils to be too saucy. Add salt and black pepper to taste.
In a separate pot, add the finely chopped spinach with a tablespoon of water, and allow to cook for 5 minutes or until completely wilted. Add the yoghurt, stir through and add 1/2 a cup of mozzarella cheese. Allow to cook for 5 minutes and add salt to taste.
In a square 20 cm oven proof dish, layer the lentils and spinach. I started with a layer of lentils, followed by spinach, and managed to layers, ending with the spinach on top. I covered this with the remaining mozzarella cheese and baked it at 180 degrees Celsius until golden brown and bubbling. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes (which lets the dish set) before serving with a side of salad.
1) Brehm, B. J., Seeley, R. J., Daniels, S. R., D’Alessio, D. A. (2003) A randomized trail comparing a very low carbohydrate diet and a calorie-restricted low-fat diet on body weight and cardiovascular risk factors in healthy women. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism; http://dx.doi.org/10.1210/jc.2002-021480
2) Shai, I., Schwarzfuchs, D., Henkin, Y., Shahar, D. R., Witkow, S., Greenberg, I., Golan, R., Fraser, D., Bolotin, A., Vardi, H., Tangi-Rozental, O., Zuk-Ramot, R., Sarusi, B., Brickner, D., Schwartz, Z., Sheiner, E., Marko, R., Katorza, E., Thiery, J., Fiedler, G. M., Blüher, M., Stumvoll, M., Stampfer, M. J. (2008) Weight loss with a low-carbohydrate, Mediterreanean, or low-fat diet. New England Journal of Medicine, 359:229-241; DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa0708681