TWO Glasgow chefs have written a much-needed book: Paleo Canteen – Low Carb on a Budget. They’re an interesting twosome. John Meechan worked in London, under stellar names: Yotam Ottolenghi, Sarit Packer, Itamar Srulovich, and Trish Hilferty. With a PHD in philosophy, he now runs a pop-up restaurant in Glasgow called the Mustard Spoon.

Ally Houston trained at that Glasgow dining institution, the Rogano, where the managers took a boy who, left to his own devices, “ate nothing but beige processed food”, and taught him to appreciate great cooking.

As a child, he says, he had a season ticket to the children’s hospital. He suffers from serious autoimmune diseases; heart problems and Alzheimer’s run in his family.

A physics degree introduced him to the discipline of scientific enquiry, which he then applied to researching his health.

“When I changed how I ate to a “paleo”, low carbohydrate diet, my health improved dramatically.” So he left his physics PHD for his first love, food.

A couple of years back, the two began their collaboration, Paleo Canteen. Although he wasn’t looking for a solution to health problems, “the low-carb diet intrigued me intellectually”, says John.

And benefits soon followed: “I felt unexpectedly stabilised both mentally and physically, able to focus better, less prone to ups-and-downs. My hunger came under control.”

I can relate to this last line. My personal experience is that carb-centric meals simply don’t “keep me going”.

I’m as partial to risotto as the next person, but an hour and a half later, I’m starving.

John puts it so well. “The right diet will let you go several hours in between meals without energy crashes or cravings for quick fixes.”

Strictly speaking, paleo eaters are dairy-free, but John and Ally might be more accurately described as ‘primal” eaters: they love adding dairy to their diets. Adopting John and Ally’s eating approach means, first and foremost, avoiding sugar, or at least curbing your sweet tooth.

I’ve found that you can do this surprisingly quickly – weeks not months – until you find that much less sugar is quite sweet enough.

With the paleo approach, you’ll also avoid, or reduce refined flours and the cheaper, starchy components of meals,

like polenta, rice, potatoes, pulses, and bread.

John and Ally urge us to measure the value of the food we eat in terms of “nutrition per £”, or “nutrient density”.

“You can buy a box of pasta for 50p and get hundreds of calories of energy, but there’s very little nutrition in there.”

Yet there’s a problem right there. Even supposing you can bear to park the starchy stuff, isn’t a shift to paleo going to break the bank?

John and Ally say no.

“Our aim with these recipes is to show that a change to low carb need neither put burdensome constraints on how you eat, nor squeeze your budget.

“We know this first hand because we live on tight budgets, as well as low carb diets, but we refuse to let either of these things get in the way of eating well.”

You only have to skim their recipes to see that far from limiting our kitchen endeavours, this book extends them in imaginative ways that won’t break the


There are old favourites with new twists, such as shepherd’s pie topped with a mustardy, buttery celeriac mash that’s stiffened with egg, and a modern spin on faggots that your great grandma would never recognise.

Cheaper meat cuts, and the more affordable species of fish get star billing: crisp lamb breast served with cavalo nero, cherry tomatoes, and tzatziki, butterflied sardines with a tapenade of olives, anchovies and capers.

Even if you’re not even flirting with the idea of walking all the way down the paleo path, this cook book is worth having.

It inspired me to transform some potentially dull white fish by serving it with Sauce Vièrge.

I’m eyeing up the beetroot and coconut curry, the braised chard with chilli and tomato.

The basic formula they suggest is to choose a meat or fish, partner it with a seasonal vegetable or two, and bring these together with a garnish that adds colour, freshness, and flavour.

Paleo Canteen helps gets you out the doldrums of over-relying on a boring, bulking, stodgy component to make your meals.

And that’s always helpful.

Paleo Canteen is available now and priced £14.99,