Meet Nicer Food’s Infused Olive Oils – Low FODMAP Flavour for your Dishes

low fodmap, nicer foods, garlic infused oil, fructose malabsorption, irritable bowel syndrome, IBS, gluten free, organic

About a month ago, Jesse and Kate Watson of Nicer Foods contacted me and asked me if I’d like to test drive their newest product. Given how much I liked their last effort (chocolate peanut butter flavoured protein bars, mmmmmmmm…….) I of course said yes. Please realise, though, that the opinions here are my own; even though they very generously sent me a full-sized version of each of the four flavours, I was not bound to give them a good review.

Firstly, 10 points to Gryffindor – I mean Nicer Foods – for great customer service; they have always replied promptly to my enquiries and these little beauties reached me just two days after I agreed to review them, in a well padded parcel.

For the uninitiated, the low FODMAP diet restricts garlic and onion, among other foods, based on their high quantities of fermentable carbohydrates, known as fructans (or fructooligosaccharides/FOS, part of the O group), which aren’t absorbed in the small intestine, so travel on into the colon, where your resident gut flora digest them, leading to gas production, bloating, cramps and altered bowel movements. You know, exactly what you want to read about in the review of a gourmet food product. Sorry.

For the less than savoury reasons mentioned above, those following the low FODMAP diet for relief of digestive complaints will eliminate garlic and onion varieties, which for some might seem like the end of the world for their taste buds. However, luckily for us, FODMAPs are water soluble, so foods like garlic and onion can be sauteed in oil until their flavours have seeped in, leaving the fructans behind. This means that oils infused with the essences of higher FODMAP foods can impart the flavour into your meals, without the FODMAPs. Sounds great and easy enough, right? Well, the down side to this is that you really shouldn’t store your homemade infused oils; you can make them but only if you plan to use them right there and then. Botulism, a potentially fatal bacterial infection, is caused by the food-borne bacterium Clostridium botulinum, which thrives in low oxygen, alkaline, warm environments – just like infused oils.

Personally, I’m not happy to risk a case of Botulism to have the convenience of homemade infused oils lying around and, while I’m happy to throw a couple of garlic cloves into simmering oil when I’m cooking, I most likely won’t be bothered when I am making a heat-free-prep meal, like dips or salad dressings.

So, what to do? Supermarkets and websites sell varieties of infused olive oils that we can take advantage of. But what makes Nicer Foods’ infused oils stand out from the crowd? Firstly (and most importantly), they are made with the intention of being completely FODMAP friendly, so you don’t have to worry about garlic or onion “juice” getting into the oils, like you do with others. Have you ever seen the garlic infused oils on the supermarket shelves that have bits of garlic sitting at the bottom? Chances are you may react to that particular oil – depending on how sensitive your gut is. Secondly, they taste great – more on that later – and thirdly, I’d happily support a family owned start up company over a chain-brand that probably doesn’t care as much about quality control and its customers.

So, to the oils!… Which are available online for purchase at Nicer Foods’ website for a reasonable price.

Shallot Infused Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Great taste, a little strong but pleasant. It works wonders as a simple salad dressing with a pinch of sea salt or as part of a cooked meal. Just beware, though, that as it’s an “extra virgin olive oil,” (EVOO) I’d keep your heat low, so don’t use it while stir frying, or simply add it in at the end of the cooking process.

Meal ideas:

  • Salad dressing, with a pinch of sea salt and perhaps a dash of white wine vinegar.
  • Drizzle over your pasta of choice and throw on a few cherry tomatoes, some shredded basil and Parmesan cheese.
  • Onion replacement in hot meals, if used carefully – would work in combination with the garlic oil in any Italian or Mexican dishes that you wanted to try, such as this Bolognese sauce.
  • Jazz up your favourite low FODMAP dip recipes – this would go well in a roasted capsicum dip.

I like the shallot oil so much that it has earnt it’s own pouring spout. If I had to pick, it’d be my favourite.

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Garlic Infused Extra Virgin Olive Oil

A pleasant and mild garlic flavour. I’ve tried store bought garlic oils before and some have had an obnoxious garlic taste but this one, thankfully, does not.

Meal Ideas:

  • Salad dressing (as above).
  • Use carefully in cooking, such as garlic free carnitas or Napoli sauce (after sauce has been reduced from the boiling point).
  • Whip up a delicious garlic infused guacamole.
  • Bake some spinach and Feta muffins, or mini quiches, using the garlic oil as part of the fat content, to spice up the flavour.

Pictured here in a green leek chimichurri sauce.

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Lemon Infused Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Refreshingly zingy. I like the other oils a lot, too, as the steadily emptying bottles can attest – but this one speaks to my inner baker and dessert-aholic. The flavour reminds me of a lemon biscuit (cookie) that my Gran used to buy and that I now want to replicate. I wish it came in a bigger bottle!

Meal Ideas:

  • Drizzle over seafood as it’s removed from the heat.
  • Use it as part of a zesty summer salad dressing.
  • Use it as part of the fat component in a lemon-infused baked goods – I’m planning a recipe right now.

Basil Infused Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Herby! I love the versatility of this oil. Good quality oil – as are all the others – that can be used in a variety of ways.

Meal Ideas:

  • Make an extreme basil pesto, or add it with a bit of the garlic oil to a spinach or kale pesto for some basil flavour when basil is out of season.
  • Drizzle it into a bowl of plain EVOO and Balsamic vinegar (which is low FODMAP in 1-2 tbsp. servings) and use it as a dip for your gluten free or FODMAP friendly bread for a simple appetiser.
  • For a super simple lunch or dinner, drizzle some over freshly cooked gluten free pasta, add in some chopped cherry toms and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and you’re done.

All in all I can safely say that I recommend these oils. The team at Nicer Foods has done a great job. The fresh flavours, combined with no ill reactions on my behalf, and a friend’s rave review of my shallot oil/sea salt salad dressing (“That’s all that was in the dressing?!”) makes this a win-win product in my books.

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Butter Chicken – FODMAP/Fructose Friendly & Gluten Free

Butter Chicken - Low FODMAP, Fructose Friendly & Gluten Free

When Ev’s little brother was staying with us over his summer school holidays (our winter), both he and Ev became a tad obsessed with butter chicken. They even had a song for it. I can understand why, it is delicious but unfortunately it does take a little planning to get this meal made as the chicken has to marinate overnight and the sauce is better if made ahead of time, as well.

Back in my pre-FM days, a jar of Pataks would have satisfied my butter chicken, or any Indian food cravings but the simmer sauces you buy at the supermarket – as always – are chock full of onion and thus unsuitable for most with FM. As if that wasn’t enough reason to make your own sauce, the pre-made sauces are really quite bland compared to a homemade sauce; not so here, I can only describe this dish as “vibrant.”

The original recipe is from a great YouTube channel called Eat East Indian. I highly recommend it if you are comfortable tinkering with recipes to FODMAP-ify them, as they have some delicious creations. I have made their recipe FODMAP friendly for all of you to try, with some other alterations as well – but of course I credit them with the amazing original recipe.

Just a note – I made a double batch below, so that’s why the amounts look so much bigger.

Notes:

  1. Garam masala can contain onion or garlic powder – it’s only a fraction of the 1/2 tsp. called for in this recipe so it might be tolerated by some. Use your own judgement and omit it if necessary.
  2. An onion is called for in the original recipe. I have replaced this with a pinch of asafoetida powder and 1/2 a cup of green chives but you could go back to the original version if you can tolerate onion.
  3. I included carrot and celery in this recipe for some added nutrition. Evgeny, if you’re reading this, don’t complain because you had no clue. 😛
  4. Make sure your asafoetida powder is cut with rice flour and not wheat (to prevent clumping) if you’re very sensitive to fructans or a coeliac.
  5. Butter isn’t high in lactose, as lactose is water soluble and most of it goes into buttermilk instead of the butter – however you could replace some or all of it with coconut butter.
  6. The cream and plain yoghurt can be replaced with lactose free versions if required.

Butter Chicken

Serves 4.

Part 1

  • 500 g chicken, diced into 2 cm cubes
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander seed
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp. ground fenugreek seeds
  • 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup plain yoghurt – optional

Combine the spices with the plain yoghurt (lactose free or normal) and then mix through the chicken pieces. Place everything in an airtight container in the fridge for at least 1 hour – overnight is best. If you want the spice flavours to come through more strongly at the end, or if you cannot get LF yoghurt, omit the yoghurt.

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Part 2

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 1 pinch asafoetida powder
  • 1 celery stick, finely diced
  • 1 carrot, finely diced
  • 4 cloves garlic – to infuse butter
  • 1 tbsp. ginger, minced
  • 250 g /8.8 oz diced tomatoes – fresh or tinned

Prepare all your ingredients for part 2 beforehand; this makes the actual cooking process as simple as possible.

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Gently melt the butter over a low heat and add in the cumin seeds and asafoetida powder; simmer until fragrant, then add the diced carrots, celery, garlic and ginger and simmer for 10 minutes with the lid on. The carrots need to soften before they are blended. If you chose to include a diced onion, add it in with the carrots etc.

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Next, add in the tomatoes and cook for a further 3 minutes. Pick out the garlic cloves and spoon the contents of your pot into a blender (or use your immersion blender and then set the paste aside in a bowl – but there’s no way I’m doing that in my Le Creuset!) and puree the vegetables. The paste will be used as the sauce later on. This step can be done on the same day as part 3 but the flavours can really mingle if you make it ahead of time, such as the night before when you start your chicken marinating.

Part 3

  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. brown sugar or dextrose
  • 3/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup diced green chives
  • 1/3 cup double cream – LF variety or normal
  • 1/2 tsp. fenugreek seeds
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. garam masala – if tolerated
  • Coriander leaves (cilantro) to garnish

Seal your pot and fry the bay leaves and ground cloves until fragrant. Take your chicken pieces that have been marinating – the longer, the better – and add them in; sear until fully sealed. Remove the bay leaves and pour in the paste. Mix well, then add in the salt, turmeric, paprika, brown sugar, cinnamon and chives and simmer for 30 minutes.

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Pour in the double cream and cook over a medium heat for 5 more minutes before adding in the fenugreek seeds, black pepper and garam masala; simmer for 10 minutes and it’s finished. Some recipes might call for a drop or two of red food colouring but really, I think it’s bright enough as it is and why add in something that is completely unnecessary if it’s only going to make it a little brighter?

If you are not serving it straight away, keep it on a low heat until it’s required.

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Serve with white rice and a garnish of coriander leaves (cilantro). You can serve the sauce and rice in separate dishes or create individual bowls – separately is more traditional but you can do whatever you’d like.

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It makes a delicious lunch if you store it in individual dishes that you can either refrigerate or freeze and take to work/school/wherever for the week.

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Miniature Savoury Quiches – Low Fructose

What do you do when you have leftover pastry and eggs that need to be used?

Quiches!

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You can make these without the pastry as well, for a low-carbohydrate alternative. Just fill the patty pans a little more but be careful, they do rise!

These are great to make as entrees (appetisers) for dinners or make them on the weekend and have delicious, homemade lunches at work (or school or home!) during the week. Just make a salad to eat with it and people will be giving you filthy looks of jealousy. Or, as in our case last night, the dogs.

I also have a new vegetarian quiche recipe up that uses a different pastry recipe. Try them out!

Savoury Quiches

The following will make 24 miniature quiches.

  • One full batch of GF sour cream pastry
  • 8 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk or water (cow, unsweetened almond, soy milk)
  • 1/8 tspn. asafoetida
  • 1/2 tbsp. salt
  • 1 tspn. black pepper
  • 1 cup grated cheese (cheddar, Parmesan it’s up to you)
  • 3 tbsp oregano
  • 6-8 rashers GF bacon, diced
  • 1 cup diced vegetables of your choice (spinach, tomato, capsicum, zucchini, mushrooms etc)

Dice bacon and vegetables of your choice. Seal your skillet and then fry the bacon and vegetables until the bacon has just turned crispy. Meanwhile, beat the eggs, milk, asafoetida, oregano, salt and pepper together. Drain the bacon and veggies from the oil and add into the egg mixture. Mix thoroughly.

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Cook the bacon and vegetables

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Mix the bacon and vegetables into the egg mixture

Make the pastry ahead of time according to the instructions on the linked page. It should produce 24 miniature quiches that are about 4-5 cm in diameter. Blind bake them for 15 minutes at 350 F/180 C before removing pie weights and filling the shells with the egg mixture and topping with cheese.

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Continue baking at the same temperature for a further 15 or so minutes, until the tops of the quiche filling has browned nicely and they no longer look runny.

Remove from the oven and let them cool for 10-15 minutes so the pastry can firm up before transferring them to a serving dish.

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Quiches with pastry and blanched greens – ignore the asparagus, I can eat a few stalks without reacting

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Pastry-less quiches for lunch the next day. Left-overs rock.

Enjoy!

Asafoetida – A Replacement for Onion & Garlic (Low Fructose)

Yesterday I went into Pike Place Market to (and don’t laugh at me here) take Bailey to see the city we’ve moved to. I know he’s a dog and all but I figured that we had dragged him literally half-way around the world and he hadn’t seen Seattle yet. It’s been 2 years. Plus it was a gorgeous day and who needs more of an excuse than that to go into Seattle to the markets and Fisherman’s Wharf?

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As you can see, we visited the markets and a few shops besides; Bails and Nellie were not only allowed in basically all of the stores that didn’t serve food but they also were given a treat in each one. Spoilt things. Seattle really is very dog friendly. Except for Sound Transit (a bus company) – for some reason dogs have to be crated to go on their buses, whereas King County Metro (the other bus company) has no rules other than you have to pay for a dog that won’t fit on your lap and one big dog per bus… just so you know.

Anyway, back to the Asafoetida, also known as Hing. It is an interesting spice, to say the least.

We visited the World Spice Merchants store, which is just behind Pike Place Market – again, the dogs were allowed in and were given treats – and while browsing, the words “onion and garlic flavours hiding within” popped out at me. This was exciting! While I can eat cooked onion and garlic with no issues, I am always looking for replacements to either put with my recipes here or just in case my FM changes and onions and garlic end up on my no-go list.

*Note* After further research on asafoetida, the powder is usually cut with a tiny amount of rice or wheat flour to prevent clumping. I emailed World Spice Market and their current batch (as of May 2013) contains wheat. If you’ve just got FM, this might be ok for you as you only use a pinch in any recipe; if you have Coeliacs, make sure you find a powder with rice flour only.

Asafoetida is made from the sap excreted from the stem and roots of the giant fennel plant, Ferula Assafoetida, which is dried and then ground into a powder. It cannot be eaten raw, as it can cause severe gastrointestinal upset.

However the dried, powdered form in which it can be purchased in America has been shown to alleviate:

  • Gastrointestinal upset and flatulence
  • Cold and flu symptoms
  • Yest infections
  • Anxiety
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Hysteria/insanity
  • Pulmonary issues such as bronchitis
  • Some contraceptive effects

References here and here.

It is very popular as a spice in Indian cuisine as well as soups and stews, due to the onion/garlic/leek taste (as well as a truffle flavour) that it can bring to a dish. It apparently pairs well with cauliflower and legumes.

Asafoetida

There can be side effects to Asafoetida, though. Apparently, it is quite efficacious with regards to flavour, so not much is required – it has the nickname “Devil’s Dung” due to its pungent odour when uncooked. I don’t think it smells as bad as that – at least the version that I bought doesn’t; it’s a bit like a strong onion powder smell.

Due to its potential contraceptive effects, it is recommended that women who are aiming to become pregnant, are pregnant or breast-feeding do not consume this spice as it could cause a miscarriage. It should also not be consumed by young children.

On that scary note, I’m going to experiment with it as a flavour enhancer in a few dishes, without intending to use it medicinally.

Does anybody else out there have any experience cooking with Asafoetida? I’d love to get some recommendations.