I Can’t Believe It’s Not Rice…

"bread" by How can I recycle this is licensed under CC BY 2.0

I recently embarked on ‘a change in my eating habits’ – you’re not allowed to call it a ‘diet’ any more – on my GPs instructions. It’s a fairly simple change, but with considerable consequences. cut out all ‘pure’ carbohydrate foods.

No rice, no potatoes, no pasta, no bread, no baked goods.

Consequence number one – the desired one – is a drop in weight and blood pressure. About 7.5 kilos over two months (and I’ll get back to that ‘about’), BP down to around 125/85. All fine. But…

I can cope without rice. I always thought pasta rather over-rated. But… No toast! No sandwiches! No chips! No mash! Tragedy upon tragedy!

And so I set out across the internet in search of the holy grails. A no-carb bread, and a no-carb potato. Or near equivalent. And maybe a rice? Later…

First the bread

Here’s a hyperexcited website trumpeting how “my husband thought I’d gone back to buying real wholemeal”. Honey, either your husband is a complete moron, or a monument of grin’n’bear it tact.

And the ingredients! Xanthan gum, pea protein, whey protein isolate, inulin, erythritol, chia seed meal, flax seed meal, coconut flour, banana flour, almond flour, vital wheat gluten… welcome to Food Chemistry 101.

And the eggs! One recipe promises a ‘well-risen’ loaf using only one, another requires seven. Seven! That’s not a loaf, that’s a nut flour omelette.

Most efforts came out looking bread-ish but feeling and tasting more like cake. Very flat cake..

Breads with a pulse

If all these nut-based breads aren’t cutting the vegemite, what else can you use to make ‘bread’? I consulted my favourite (fictional) baker, Corinna Chapman.

And that led me to pulses like chickpea and lentil flours. And here I struck, if not quite gold, at least a good seam of iron pyrites. I meant to make bread, but by pure accident, ended up with chips! Well, chip-analogues!

Cheap as chips

It started with the simplest possible ‘bread’ recipe – split red lentils, soaked overnight, blitzed in a blender with some baking powder and oil, poured into a brownie pan, and baked.

Except I fucked it up. I misread the recipe and added double the water, creating something more like pancake batter. But what the hell, I baked it anyway. And found I’d made a lentil polenta.

I hate polenta. But sliced into squares, fried, and topped with baked beans, I tried some of this for breakfast.

Still hate polenta.

Then just as I was falling asleep that night. I had an idea. Suppose, instead of cutting my ‘polentil’ into squares, I cut it into sticks? And suppose I then deep-fried those sticks? Could they possibly….

Yes they could. And so ladies and gentlemen, I give you my first success in the search for a carbo substitute.

RED POLENTIL STEAKHOUSE CHIPS

INGREDIENTS

  • 120g split red lentils, washed and drained till the water runs clear
  • 250ml water for soaking, plus 250ml
  • 30g coconut flour
  • 50ml olive oil
  • 2–1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • You can if you wish experiment with seasonings: I add a teaspoon of powdered garlic. If you like a spicy kick, add chilli powder to taste as well. But they’ll taste good plain, too.

INSTRUCTIONS

  • The Night Before: Combine the rinsed lentils and 250ml water in a medium bowl or other container; loosely cover. Let stand, at room temperature, for at least 6 to 12 hours.
  • The Next Day: Preheat oven to 170C, 160C fan forced. Line a 33 x 23cm baking pan with baking paper. Don’t skip this step: this stuff sticks!
  • Add the lentils and the water in which they’ve been soaking to a blender. Add the salt. Blend on maximum speed until completely smooth. Stop and scrape down the sides of goblet once or twice.
  • With the blender running, add 250ml more water and the remaining ingredients, stopping to scrape down a couple of times as before. Pour into the lined pan.
  • Bake in the preheated oven for about an hour and a half, checking at the one hour mark to feel if slab is solid, and a toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. If it’s browning too fast, cover with a loose cap of foil. Depending on your oven, you will probably have to continue baking for another 15 – 30mins. Once it passes the toothpick test, take it out of the oven.
  • Leave in the pan on a wire rack for about 10 mins. Then carefully slide the slab out of the pan and onto the rack, using the baking paper to support it. Leave it for a further half hour loosely covered, e.g., under a tea towel, to dry out a bit.
  • It should now resemble polenta, and you can cut it into slabs and use it the exact same way.
  • But for chips, cut into fairly chunky batons – think steakhouse style [it should keep in a sealed container in the fridge for 2 weeks, or in the freezer for up to 6 months]
  • To make chips, deep fry the batons in very hot oil for a few minutes, until golden brown and crisp on the outside, soft and fluffy within – watch like a hawk: they go from golden to scorched very fast.
  • Serve immediately, just like chips, with mayo, ketchup etc etc. Or alongside whatever main course you’re having.

Meanwhile, the search for carbless bread, rice and pasta continues…

About the author

Veteran gay writer and speaker, Doug was one of the founders of the UKs pioneering GLBTI newspaper Gay News (1972) , and of the second, Gay Week, and is a former Features Editor of Him International. He presented news and current affairs on JOY 94.9 FM Melbourne for more than ten years. "Doug is revered, feared and reviled in equal quantities, at times dividing people with his journalistic wrath. Yet there is no doubt this grandpa-esque bear keeps everyone abreast of anything and everything LGBT across the globe." (Daniel Witthaus, "Beyond Priscilla", Clouds of Magellan, Melbourne, 2014)