I don’t consider myself a rule breaker in general: I more or less stick to the speed limit; I recycle everything that can be; I always wait for the green man even when the kids aren’t with me; goddammit I even take my make-up off before bedtime. But when it comes to diets, particularly the more draconian kind, I get very bored very quickly meaning I either give up after two days, or spend the whole time cheating.
This is why I don’t normally bother with fad diets – I lasted about five days on the bloody stupid Dukan meat-fest and not even five minutes on the abhorrent cabbage soup diet (one mouthful was quite enough). The only diet I have had moderate success with is 5:2, because at least when you are allowed to eat, it can be something you actually want, rather than an unappetising item from a finger-wagging list. But I even gave up on that because I got insanely bored of being hungry and bad tempered. Life’s too short to spend nearly a third of it digesting nothing but your own stomach lining and shouting at your offspring.
That’s why this Sirtfood diet appealed. Hunger is not an issue – although the first three days were a bit brutal – and, according to its authors, it is a diet of inclusion, rather than exclusion. So after you follow the three-week meal plan, there are no hard and fast rules except that you must include as many foods from the top 20 list (see yesterday’s post) as possible. I don’t think that means unlimited burger-scoffage is OK so long as you have a rocket salad on the side; common sense must obviously prevail.
So apart from my conscious decision to take last weekend off, this ‘inclusive’ approach along with sizeable portions has meant less cheating than usual on my part. I have done a bit of rule bending by tweaking some of the recipes to make them less one-dimensional – there’s only so much turmeric I can stomach as a flavour by itself – but I don’t think my changes should have too detrimental an effect on their sirtuin-activating properties. Only time (and the scales) will tell. If I’m back to being as fat as a house in a fortnight, it’ll be my words, not burgers, I’ll be eating.
I am posting the following two recipes because I think they stand up very well in their own right, not just as passable diet food. With this tabbouleh I have omitted the strawberries and dates that appear in the original because I don’t think strawberries ever deserve a spot in a savoury recipe and certainly not in the middle of January, and I didn’t think the dates added anything – save them both for pudding if you will. I have also added mint and some extra spicing because I think a tabbouleh should taste at least a little bit Arabian.
- 50g buckwheat
- 1 level tsp turmeric
- 1/2-1 birds eye chilli, finely chopped
- pinch ground allspice
- 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 regular sized tomato, diced
- 1/2 red onion finely chopped
- 1 tbsp capers, chopped
- juice of half a lemon
- 5g flat leaf parsely, finely chopped
- 5g mint, finely chopped
- 1/2 hass avocado diced
- handful of rocket leaves
- drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper
- Cook the buckwheat in boiling salted water with the turmeric until al dente – about 6 minutes – then drain.
- Put the finely chopped onion in a mixing bowl with the lemon juice and a pinch of salt and leave to macerate while you chop your other ingredients.
- Add all the other ingredients except the avocado, rocket and oil to the bowl including the cooked buckwheat, stir to combine.
- Add the rocket and avocado with a drizzle of oil and stir carefully so as not to mash up the avocado.
- Season to taste and serve. Good on its own or with feta crumbled over, or as a side to your choice of protein.
Spiced cauliflower cous cous with hazelnuts
Cauliflower ‘rice’ or ‘cous cous’ has been around for a while – a popular dish among ‘clean eaters’. Do not let this put you off, it’s yummy (although I accept this is a bit of a marmite dish – it has a bitter afternote that you’ll either love or hate). I have departed from the original recipe because I like the pairing of hazelnut and cauliflower and didn’t want the flavour of sun dried tomatoes and capers, included in the original, to get in the way. Instead, I added chopped dates and toasted cumin seeds.
- about 150g cauliflower, blitzed into rubble in a food processor (or chopped very finely by hand)
- 1/2 red onion finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic finely chopped
- 2 tsp chopped ginger
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 1 level tsp ground turmeric
- 1 level tsp ras el hanout (the Arabica brand is really good – available from M&S)
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted in a dry frying pan
- 15g skinned hazelnuts, toasted in a dry frying pan then chopped
- 10g chopped dates, chopped up a bit more (you could use Medjool here but they are sticky so tend to clump together. I used the ready chopped type which are drier)
- small handful of flat leaf parsley, chopped
- lemon juice to taste
- salt and pepper
- natural yogurt or tatziki to serve
- Fry the onion, garlic and ginger in the oil until softened, about 10 minutes.
- Add the turmeric and ras el hanout and cook for another minute, before tossing in the blitzed cauliflower.
- Stir fry for about 3 minutes, then add the cumin seeds, chopped hazelnuts and dates.
- Season, then add a squeeze of lemon and the parsely.
- Serve with a dollop of yogurt on its own, or with the protein of your choice. Above I had it with sesame crusted halloumi – simply slice 70g halloumi into 3 pieces, dip in beaten egg, coat with sesame seeds and fry in a little oil until golden on each side.