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The cassava pie makeover (half the saturated fat, two-thirds of the calories)

A Christmas tradition in Bermuda: Cassava pie

Just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, I discovered the Bermuda Cassava Pie Club on Facebook. So not only have I been risking deportation by lambasting a national delicacy, I now also risk social alienation. This comes at the same time that everyone has been receiving the Nigella Lawson vs Gillian McKeith e-mail. The e-mail pictures Nigella, aged 50, a fantastically gorgeous, decadent celebrity chef, alongside Gillian, aged 51, a slightly haggard health guru. The point of the e-mail is that if you can eat butter, cream and chocolate and look like Nigella, why on earth would you dine on mung beans and look like Gillian? It’s been a hard, hard week for nutritionists everywhere.Of course in fairness, the two photographs compare Nigella on the red carpet, to Gillian without make-up, on a jungle safari. Now, I’m not saying I’m anywhere near fabulous, but I can look OK if you give me a good blow-dry and 20 minutes with my make-up bag. If you scrubbed me clean and threw me in a humid jungle, it would be a different story. Ask the lovely husband, or any husband in fact. The before and after makeover miracle that women perform on a regular basis is simply quite astonishing. My point being, that a make-up vs no make-up photo comparison is not entirely fair.But maybe I haven’t been fair either. I did, after all, label cassava pie as a nutritional disaster, past saving perhaps a touch hasty considering its popularity. In fact, one cassava fan, Joy, e-mailed me after my pie-bashing to give me her family recipe for a healthier version. Perhaps this will seem like sacrilege to die-hard fans, but apparently you can temper the ingredients and still make a really delicious dish.So seeing as it’s Christmas, I thought I’d share this with you. If you look at the table, you’ll see that this recipe halves the saturated fat of a traditional cassava pie and reduces the calories by one-third. What would have been 807 calories and 24g of saturated fat per portion, has been reduced to 543 calories and 10g of saturated fat per portion. It’s still bad for you (especially given the serving size) but this is a pretty amazing makeover. Its been achieved by replacing some of the whole eggs with egg whites only, reducing the sugar, replacing some of the butter and Crisco fat with olive oil and plain natural yoghurt and by using chicken breast instead of chicken thighs. I compared the made-over recipe below to a traditional recipe, using 15 eggs, 1lb of butter and two-and-a-half cups of sugar. Both recipes used 5lbs of cassava, so I presume they make roughly the same amount of pie.Perhaps it’s a little late for tomorrow, but if so, you can always file this away for Easter. For now, I’m wishing you all a very Merry Christmas!The Cassava Pie Make-Over (serves 12 or more, freezes well)Ingredients:5 lbs cassava4 whole eggs9 egg whites6oz butter⅔ cup olive oil⅔ cup yoghurt½ cup PET evaporated milk1 cup sugarGenerous 3 tbsps baking powder½ cup flourFlat tsps of: salt, nutmeg, powdered cloves OR allspice, and cinnamon4lbs chicken breastsCelery, carrot, onion and parsley for stockMethod:1. Cook the chicken in a large pot with water, celery, carrot, parsley seasonings and onions for stock.2.When cooked through, dice the chicken and reserve broth.3.Mix unfrozen cassava (well drained), eggs, butter, oil, yoghurt and milk with your hands.4.Add sugar, baking powder, flour and all the spices and mix well.5.In a large, well greased roasting pan (or use two loaf pans one for Christmas and the other to freeze for Easter) put in about 1½ inches of the cassava mixture.6. Add the chicken in an evenly distributed layer.7. Top with remaining cassava (another 1½ inches) and prick with a fork.8. Then pour over about a cup of chicken broth and put it in the oven at 350F.9. Cook for approximately two hours, remembering to baste with chicken broth every ½ hour.10. The pie is done when a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.Nutritional comparison of traditional vs made-over Cassava Pie (12 servings)Traditional Recipe Makeover RecipeIngredients5lbs Cassava 400 cal 400 calEggs 975 cal, 21g saturated fat 413 cal, 5.6g saturated fatButter 3256 cal, 233.2g saturated fat 1218 cal, 87.6 saturated fatSugar 1935 cal 774 calCrisco 440 cal, 12g saturated fat n/aChicken 2680 cal, 22g saturated fat 1984 cal, 6.4 saturated fatOlive oil n/a 1256.1 cal, 20.67g saturated fatPlain, no-fat yoghurt n/a 91.3 cal, 0.2g saturated fatPET evaporated milk n/a 160 cal, 4g saturated fatFlour n/a 228 cal, 0.1g saturated fatSpices n/a n/aPie Totals 9686 calories, 288.2g saturated fat 6524.4 caloriesPer Person 807 calories, 24g saturated fat 543 calories, 10g saturated fatThe advice given in this article is not intended to replace medical advice, but to complement it. Always consult your GP if you have any health concerns. Catherine Burns BA Hons, Dip ION is a fully qualified nutritional therapist trained by the Institute for Optimum Nutrition in the U.K. Please note that she is not a registered dietitian. She can be contacted at nourishbda[AT]gmail.com