Atkins and Mango Lime Tart Stuff

So, I said I was going to write about the Atkins diet, so I will. Y’see, Gill’s back on it and, as I can’t beat ’em… yeah, me too. Today at least. We’ll see. I need to lose a couple of hundredweight before Christmas.

Anyway, before I tell you about that, here’s what I made for our last pre-Atkins feast…

Gill was on a Saturday-night sleepover, which means she doesn’t get home until around 5pm Sunday. So I had the girls all day – and we spent most of it in the kitchen (even though, unlike today, the weather wasn’t too bad and we really should have been soaking up some all-too-rare winter sunlight). We made gingerbread for the Christmas tree (we’re going to have a plywood tree this year! Yay! Art project!). And I made a three-course dinner.

To start we had leek and potato soup, which was actually left over from my use-everything-up supper the night before. And it wasn’t really leek and potato, or rather it wasn’t just leek and potato. There were loads of rather sad-looking mushrooms in there too (really interesting combination – two classic soups, mushroom and leek and potato, splurged together). And a little shallot and celery for extra oomph. And about twice as much milk as the recipe suggested. And… well, when I was sweating the vegetables, they didn’t quite look buttery enough. So I added some more. And some more. End result was that I had about half a stick of butter in there, melting away extra-slow over those veggies. And the end result of the end result was that the soup was the creamiest creamiest dreamiest yummiest you can possibly imagine. So I guess it would most accurately be called cream of cream of mushroom, leek and potato soup.

For the main course we had pasta. Home-made ravioli, with a filling of more “quick, use this up” ingredients: mashed up sweet potato with blue cheese, parsley and nutmeg. Had a nightmare barney with the pasta maker. This is the first time I’ve used it in about six months, and only the third time I’ve ever used it (it was a wedding present). I started to churn the pasta through… but only a very small amount was coming out the other end. Then I realised a load was coming out of the back, or just going right the way around the roller. I eventually managed to get some to come through as it ought to, but then working on a second batch I couldn’t get it to feed through properly. Too late I realised that all this pasta going around the back of the rollers was building up and bending out-of-shape the very plate that was supposed to keep the dough from going around the back. The bloody thing was ruined.

As I already had my dough made and my filling ready, I was forced to do the rest with a rolling pin. A steam-roller would have been more useful. Bloody nightmare. Anyway, we ended up with very tasty (if slightly thick) pasta.

And for pudding… I made some mango tartlets with lime curd and tropical nut crust (actually, I got the recipe from another website, but it’s identical to this one). Tell a lie. I made mango tartlets with lime curd and bloody ordinary crust. Not that I didn’t make the nut crusts. Oh no. But I was foolish enough to think that I could make then in a bun tray, as I didn’t have the requisite tartlet dishes with removeable bottoms. Oh no. No no no. Much good my greasing of the tray did, bloody crusts ended up concreted to the bottom. I managed to get one out more-or-less intact, but the rest of them… well, lemme just say I now have a tub full of some really tasty crumbs.

Fortunately, Gill made some little pies with the girls the other day, and there was some ready-made pastry sitting in the fridge waiting to be used. So I baked one big crust’s worth of that (because by now I couldn’t be arsed with individual portion versions). Then spread on the lime curd I’d made (mmm… yummy. Wow! I can make curd!) and spread over the… well, “slices” of mango would be talking it up somewhat. Let’s just call it a patchwork of mango scraps. Anyway, whatever it was, the whole thing tasted absolutely delicious. Only two problems:

  1. I ate far too much, and gave myself indigestion, and didn’t have room left for as much wine as I’d have liked.
  2. There was still some left over. And today I’m on Atkins duty, hence it’s out of bounds. And it’s playing heavily on my mind.

So anyway, we stuffed ourselves silly. Then retired to bed and watched O Brother, Where Art Though. Perfect night.

And then on to today… and the Atkins. I first read about this diet about a year ago, and the way it was explained (essentially that your body consumes carbohydrates in preference to fats, hence if you want to lose fat then you gotta cut out the carbs) seemed basically spot on. But then I heard the scares about the danger of cutting out major food groups. And, given that I didn’t much like the sound of a diet which, from what I’d heard, meant subsisting mainly on meat, I adopted the idea that the whole thing was basically some kind of evil cult brainwashing thing.

And then Gill started on it a while back, and I got to see it in action. And hear about what you are and are not supposed to eat. And, while I think it’s still pretty culty and brainwashy, it seems that most of the health risks come from people mis-interpreting (or over-interpreting) the rules and either cutting out fruit/veg completely or carrying on with the initial ultra-low carb “induction” period beyond for more than two weeks. What people don’t seem to realise is that you can (and should) eat a hell of a lot of salad and green vegetables and stay within the diet’s guidelines.

That said, the idea that this is a “non-diet” diet is mindbogglingly wrong. We have an Atkins cookbook here, and in the introduction it says:

…if you start leafing through the recipes, you’ll be in for the shock of your life. Where’s the diet? you’ll say. What happened to the austerity? No austerity, no diet, right? Wrong!

Wrong! What I actually say is Where’s the potatoes? And other root vegetables. Try this: think of a “comfort food”. To me, comfort food is… potatoes, mashed or roasted. Risotto. Porridge. Warm bread. Thick-crusted pies and tarts. Cakes and biscuits. In general, carbohydrates (perhaps with some rich cream thrown in for good measure). And not food that you can eat on this diet.

So you might ask yourself why I’m doing this. And I might well ask myself the same thing. Well, a couple of reasons. Firstly, because I could do with losing some weight. It’s not like I’m a humongous blob or anything, but I do weigh about three stone more than I have done for most of my life. Admittedly for most of my life I was a skinny rake, but I did quite enjoy being an ectomorph. And I lost a couple of stone (which I’ve since put back on) three years ago, and really enjoyed the noticeable difference in mobility and confidence it gave me.

Secondly, I’ve been suffering from what I now (finally) know to be Irritable Bowel Syndrome since I was about eight years old. It comes and goes a little (generally according to how stressed I am), but lately has been very bad. It’s mainly caused by wheat products (though strangely not pasta, unless eaten in large quantities), and I thought that a couple of weeks carb-free might help me to cope with that.

Thirdly… well, I’m sure I had some more reasons, but I got interrupted writing this, but thirdly I’m not so much someone who will try anything once, as someone who must try everything once (at least). So I have to try this once. I have no illusions (well, very few. Well, in relation to this anyway), and I don’t really envisage sticking with it for much longer than the two week induction, but hell it’s gotta be worth a go.

Oh yeah… the reason why I didn’t want to go on the diet… I am mainly vegetarian, have been pretty much all my life (from about the age of seven until twelve-ish, and then again from sixteen until now). I was even vegan for a few years. And although I now eat fish from time to time, and have few moral objections to meat from good sources (especially game), I’m just so unused to meat, especially the texture, that I find it hard to stomach in anything other than very small quantities. I’m also not so keen on the smell – living in a student house with seldom washed cookers, I got to retch at the smell of pig fat from grilling pork chops. When Gill started eating this stuff lately, the house became an evil smell zone. Pig fat and scrambled egg whiffs permeated the air. Oh yeah, that’s another reason why I thought I should try this diet – I figure that if I habituate myself to eating and cooking the stuff, then I might find myself less repulsed by the smell. So, like I was saying, I’m mostly vegetarian. And for an Atkins diet to work, I’ve got to bulk out my diet with something – and eggs and cheese all day every day would get a bit boring.

So I’m now approaching the end of my first day of food-torture. Had bacon for breakfast, probably the first time in twenty years that I’ve eaten it, it actually went down quite easily. Unlike the venison and mushroom sausages this evening – bit too rich for me (accompanied as they were by cabbage cooked in cream). And they leave a lingering taste of… deer fat in my mouth. I can see myself becoming bored of this fare very quickly (although with the addition of a little fruit and some small portions of vegetables, I could perhaps get by). This diet is torture, but it’ll be interesting to see how it goes.