How To Make A ‘Ta-Da’ Meal (That Is Undercover Special Diets)

When I first started my unfeasibly-restrictive-diet, I not only stopped eating out in restaurants and accepting invitations, but I assumed that it was curtains for my days as a hostess. I really love nothing more than cooking a huge meal for my friends and family – but how could I inflict my diet upon them?

As luck would have it, that turned out to be just the panic talking and, if anything, I have become even more of a dedicated and enthusiastic cook for other people since starting this diet. I just love the uniting effect that delicious food can have on people, and conversation. And what I have found is that although my diet is restrictive, I can make huge feasts and serve them to people who have absolutely no idea that I’m cooking around restrictions.

However, there is nothing worse than turning up for supper to a hostess who is red-faced, furious and stressed out; unable to properly talk or even offer you a drink, dammit, because she is either trying out a new recipe that’s going wrong, or because the timing of the meal is so precise and complicated that there is room in her brain for nothing else. Not even a little martini.

So please note: by ‘ta-da’ I do NOT mean complex or complicated, with a cappuccino froth wrapped in a sugar basket.

What I mean is a meal that is delicious, a bit decadent, makes people feel looked after and – crucially – doesn’t taste compromised. But also which can be made with minimal fuss and bother, ideally in advance, so you can get on with the important business of martini-making and putting the world to rights with your friends.

I have fed this chorizo stew to many, many people over the years and I honestly don’t think anyone has noticed that it’s grain free, sugar free and now I come to think of it, dairy free too.

A quick note on ingredients: When I’m buying the chorizo, I scrutinise the label to make sure it hasn’t got dextrose or sugar in (lots do). Ideally, it should just have pork, smoked paprika, salt and pepper. Also, I can’t emphasise enough how worth it it is to splash a bit of cash on the jars of posh beans (which are only £3.50 but that seems a lot compared to 50p for a tin). I like Navaricco, which you can find in the big branches of M&S and some delis, but be warned: once you have tried them. there is no going back. When I go to a shop that sells them, I automatically buy as many as I can carry, because running out is just WOEFUL when you are grain free, because these beans are so good at taking your mind off the fact that you are.

Beetroot with rocket pesto

(Serves 6, as a starter)

12 small beetroots splash red wine vinegar, for cooking 2 bags rocket leaves 200g walnuts, roughly chopped 150g parmesan, grated or chopped into small chunks 1 large garlic clove, chopped extra virgin oil

1. Boil the beets in water with a splash of red wine vinegar until they are tender (which depends on the size). Drain and cool and then peel and chop them into quarters.

2. Put the rocket, walnuts, parmesan, a good pinch of salt and grind of pepper into a food processor and blitz, adding olive oil until it’s the consistency of pesto. Dress your beets with as much pesto as people like and hey PESTO! (sorry).

Chorizo, red pepper and posh bean stew

This spring stew serves 6 is so easy to cook it’s almost embarrassing.

2 medium onions, chopped 2 chorizo sausages, thickly sliced 5 red, yellow and/or orange peppers, thinly sliced 1 x 660g jar posh haricot beans (though any white bean will do), drained and rinsed 2 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped 1 tsp smoked paprika

1. Fry the onions until they are soft. Add the chorizo and let it cook for a bit before adding the peppers, stirring every so often. After about 5 minutes, add the beans and a few minutes later, the tomatoes, garlic and smoked paprika. Definitely taste before you salt as chorizo is often quite salty.

2. Cook slowly on a low heat for about an hour before serving – I served it with purple sprouting broccoli and I didn’t even spare a thought for the patatas bravas that might have gone with it if I could eat potatoes…

Do you have a ‘ta-da’ meal that’s a secret weapon on a special diet? Share your tips on our Facebook page or Twitter @womanandhome.

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