High in flavour: Mark Hix gives his twist on classic dishes
Don't let health worries put you off good food – most classic dishes can be adapted, says our chef.
In my business it can be rather tricky to cut a lot of cholesterol-heavy food out of your diet. It's an especially difficult task as those foods tend to be delicious things like slow-cooked pork belly or the flavour-filled butters and creams that we add to recipes.
My cholesterol count has been a tad high for a few years now and along with taking medication, I've been using Benecol's yogurt drink and mock butter spread which my heart specialist recommended to help in lowering cholesterol. Trying such supplements has led me to experimenting with them in lots of recipes. Without sacrificing flavour, you can find ways around using foods that cause high cholesterol.
Rare steak tataki
I ate steak tartare and rare beef for a few weeks and miraculously my cholesterol count dropped. This is because the saturated fats that raise your cholesterol levels aren't present in lean rare beef. So you can eat the purest beef without a guilty conscience.
Serve this as a starter or double up the portions and do it as a main.
200g lean beef fillet, cut into 3-4cm steaks
150g French beans, topped and tailed
1 clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
30g root ginger, scraped and finely grated
3tbsp sweet soy sauce
1tbsp vegetable or corn oil
Mix the garlic, ginger and soy. Set aside 1 tablespoon of the mix and whisk it up with the vegetable oil for a dressing.
Put the steaks in a bowl and pour the rest of that soy/garlic/ginger mix over them and leave for 30 minutes.
Heat a heavy frying pan until it's almost smoking, then cook the steaks for literally 15-20 seconds on each side and the edges, then transfer to a plate, leaving to cool.
Put the French beans in boiling, salted water for 2-3 minutes until cooked, but still with some bite. Remove with a slotted spoon and plunge them into a bowl of cold water, then drain. Toss the beans in the dressing and arrange on plates. To serve, cut the steaks into ½cm slices and arrange on the beans.
Scrambled eggs with a kick
A few years ago eggs were a real no-no for those with high cholesterol, but recently it's been suggested that much of the excessf cholesterol in our bodies is actually produced by eating too much saturated fat rather than the eggs themselves. So the minute you add cream or cheese to your omelette and scrambled eggs, the innocent egg becomes a cholesterol-building culprit.
4 good-quality eggs
2tbsp semi-skimmed or skimmed milk
30-40g low-cholesterol spread
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
For the topping
1tbsp rapeseed oil
1 small red onion, peeled, halved and finely chopped
1-2 medium red chillies, trimmed and finely chopped
1tbsp chopped coriander
First make the topping: heat the rapeseed oil in a pan and gently cook the onion and chilli on a light heat for 2-3 minutes until soft; season, then remove from the heat and leave to cool. Stir in the coriander.
Break the eggs into a pan, season and add the spread and milk. Stir them on a low heat with a wooden spoon or spatula for 2-3 minutes until the eggs are just cooked and they seem really soft and fluffy. Remove the eggs from the heat and spoon out of the pan immediately on to a warmed plate. Spoon the onion and chilli mixture on top – a little spice in the morning, when you need some perking up, is a really fine thing.
A little tip: if, for some reason, you aren't ready to serve your eggs but they are cooked, then transfer them to a cold fresh pan; they will stop cooking and won't get overdone.
Grilled salmon with herb beurre blanc
With their egg and butter ingredients, sauces like hollandaise and beurre blanc, that you would pair with various meat dishes, are full of saturated fats. They're delicious but sadly a complete no-go area for anyone with high cholesterol. But don't despair: you can make fantastic alternative versions with a butter substitute and a good reduction in the base with wine, vinegar and shallots. You really won't notice any difference.
Oily fish like salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines are some of the tastiest and healthiest foods you can get, full of omega-3 fatty acids; the good fats that should be a staple of everyone's heart-healthy diet.
4 portions of salmon weighing about 180g, boned and skinned
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A little rapeseed oil for brushing
2 medium shallots, peeled, halved and finely chopped
½tbsp white wine or cider vinegar
50ml white wine
120g low-cholesterol spread
1tbsp chopped chives, chervil and parsley
A few drops of lemon juice (optional)
Preheat a ribbed griddle pan on the stove or a barbecue, season and brush the fish with the rapeseed oil and grill the salmon for about 4 minutes on each side, depending on the thickness.
Meanwhile, put the shallots in a pan with the vinegar and white wine and simmer until the liquid has reduced down to a couple of teaspoons. Remove from the heat and whisk in the spread until it's emulsified; then add lemon and seasoning to taste and stir in the herbs.
Spoon the sauce on to warm but not hot serving plates and place the salmon on top.
Sea buckthorn blancmange
Sea buckthorn shrubs are quite abundant along parts of our coastline but sadly not all that common in shops – I'm predicting, however, that sea buckthorn juice will be the next superfood craze. You can buy it online from Wild and Scottish. Be careful not to go for the brown sea buckthorn oil you find in medicine-like bottles, as that has been pasteurised beyond belief.
For the blancmange
300ml low-cholesterol yogurt drink
Zest of half an orange
90g caster sugar
30ml sea buckthorn juice
2½ leaves (9g) of gelatine
For the jelly
50g caster sugar
1 leaf (3g) of gelatine
80ml sea buckthorn juice
To make the blancmange, soak the gelatine leaves in cold water for a couple of minutes, then squeeze the water out.
Next bring 50ml of the yogurt and orange zest to the boil with the sugar and stir in the gelatine leaves until dissolved. Now stir in the buckthorn juice and the remainder of the yogurt.
Pour the mix into suitable-sized serving glasses, leaving some space at the top for the jelly; then leave to set in the fridge for 3-4 hours.
To make the jelly, soak the gelatine leaf in cold water for a few minutes until soft, then squeeze out the excess water. Bring the water and sugar to the boil, add the gelatine leaf and stir until dissolved; then stir in the buckthorn juice. Strain the whole thing through a fine sieve and leave to cool.
Finally, pour a thin layer of the mixture on top of the set blancmange and return to the fridge to set once again for a couple of hours, or overnight.
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