There is no denying the popularity of the humble spud, and really it’s no surprise; it’s extremely easy going, happy to mix with veggies, yet also comfortable hanging out on its own. It is never out of place at breakfast, lunch or dinner and the spud could possibly be the most popular snack in the whole wide world (but don’t quote me, I have no official figures to support this). Potatoes are the ultimate comfort food. Unfortunately though, they are high in carbs and this can be an issue for anyone with Diabetes or for those on a low carb diet. Fear not however, I am not going to try and convince you to give up your beloved spuds – that would be pure lunacy. I am instead going to encourage you to team your spuds up with some of their best mates so you can enjoy them regularly without Diabetics pushing your blood sugar levels to a point of panic and carb counters being sent into a number crunchy frenzy. There are some simple ways that you can get around spuds being so carb heavy. The first and most simple solution to the problem is to invite one of their lower carb buddies to join them for dinner. Tasty low carb vegetables include turnips, cauliflower, carrot, beetroot, peas and all your green vegetables. There are plenty of delicious mash recipes you can create by combining potato with any of these low carb veggies. Jamie’s Grilled cod with pancetta and pea mash and his Sweet pea fish pie from Save with Jamie are great examples of how well peas and potato go together and how versatile this combo can be. Alternatively, you could forego the spud in your mash (I know I said before I wasn’t going to suggest this, but sorry – I fibbed!) and instead try Jamie’s smashed celeriac or boil up some cauliflower with a few peeled garlic cloves, blend them a knob of butter, a splash of milk and a pinch of salt to give yourself another fantastic creamy mash option. If you are watching your calorie intake try using some low fat plain yoghurt instead of the milk and butter combo.
Another great way of reducing the carbohydrate level of a potato based dishes is to combine your spuds with a protein source; we all want bigger muscles don’t we! Think quinoa, cannellini beans, butter beans, puy lentils, green lentils, kidney beans or chick peas. Either fold the cooked or canned beans, quinoa or lentils through mash with some chopped herbs and grated citrus or you can cook the potatoes, with the beans, quinoa or lentils in a some chicken or vegetable stock with a couple of peeled cloves of garlic until soft then mash or puree the lot until smooth and creamy. Use the garlicky proteiny potatoey puree as a topping for pies, or as a warm dip or as a base for fish cakes or vegetable patties. Diabetics can temper the way their body responds to potatoes by combining them with a lower GI vegetable. The Glycaemic Index of a food is measured by how quickly the blood sugar levels in the body rise after the food has been consumed. Potatoes have a high GI whereas orange sweet potatoes, parsnips, butternut squash (pumpkin) corn and peas have a lower GI. This means blood glucose levels will rise more slowly and drop more steadily, and is the reason a lot of diabetics will combine sweet potatoes and potatoes or replace potatoes with sweet potatoes or a lower GI alternative. Carb counters take note though; potatoes and sweet potatoes have virtually the same amount of carbs, and white sweet potato is a high GI food. Potatoes are incredibly versatile. Beyond mashing you can roast, fry, steam or boil them. Most people know frying is a calorific option and chippies and French fries should only be a sometimes food. A healthier alternative is to make them yourself at home. Buy roasting potatoes (I find the dirty ones are perfect for this) give them a good scrub to remove all the dirt, then cut them into wedges, toss them in a ‘little’ olive oil and then sprinkle them with sea salt and cook them in a hot oven (220°C) for about 40 minutes or until they are crisp and golden. If you would like to give them a little extra flavour make up some flavoured salts by adding some smoked paprika, lightly ground cumin seeds, dried rosemary, grated lemon zest to your salt.
If you are a fan of the old hash brown, substitute half of the potato with grated sweet potato or zucchini. Be sure to give the grated vegetables a good squeeze to remove any excess liquid, then throw in some chopped herbs and lemon zest, fry them in a little oil and finish them with a dollop of cottage cheese, a tad more lemon zest and a sprinkle of smoked paprika. When it comes to roast veg, I am not for a minute suggesting you forego a roast spud (and I mean it this time, cross my heart), but it is important for Diabetics to keep calm and consume their roasties in moderation. Cutting them smaller will make you feel as if you are getting a little more bang for your buck. Simply aim to half fill your plate with lower carb alternatives– Jamie’s Amazing roast veg is the perfect recipe for this. Finally, for any of you living in Australia you can now buy a low carb potato called Carisma. Those of you living in the UK and Europe, these seeds have recently been planted so hopefully these spuds will be available in the near future.