For some time now, I’ve been living with Fred Flintstone and although I’ve yet to be dragged back to the cave by my hair, since my husband discovered The Caveman Diet, he’s been eating huge quantities of meat, developed an unnaturally close relationship with cashew nuts and looks at carbs as if, well, they hadn’t yet been invented.
Click here to view a slideshow on the ‘Caveman’man Cake
The Caveman Diet is basically Atkins for he-men, its devotees part of a Stone Age subculture who believe carbs, as well as being for sissies, are at the root of most paunch-related problems. These latter-day hunter-gatherers eat only food that was available before the invention of agriculture—essentially anything you can catch or forage—so no pasta, rice, bread, chips, wheat, dairy and definitely no sugar. You are also required to skip meals—it’s good to starve a little between hunts—and exercise furiously but sporadically as if being pursued by a woolly mammoth.
One for the Caveman: Eggs and nuts make Sephardic Jewish cakes rich but don’t compromise on the health quotient. Priyanka Parashar / Mint
According to Caveman.com, this state of fight or flight “activates your animal instincts for hunting and gathering…. embrace it for what it is”. And if you end up with rickets or osteoporosis from lack of calcium or are eaten by a tiger, well, at least you’ll be seriously buff. Arthur de Vany, the Caveman founder, who is 72 but admittedly has a body Shah Rukh Khan would kill for, lives his life as though it is “a very long camping trip with no camp stove or energy bars to get us through”. De Vany also believes the diet can have a beneficial effect on the modern blight of diabetes, heart disease and obesity. He’s not alone, the paleolithic regime has some high-profile devotees. It helped Liz Hurley sashay in her wedding sari and saw Peter Andre through the worst of being married to Katie Price.
Last week, my daughter, a once-staunch ally in the carb-rich lifestyle, announced she was joining Dad in the cave in a bid to shed the evidence of recent holiday fish suppers and deep-fried Mars bar excess before school starts again in August. A week in, though, Pebbles was cake-crazed and begging me for carb-free goodies. I’m normally intolerant of fad diets but I could feel her pain. So overcoming my natural aversion to “healthy” baking, I decided to rise to the challenge of baking a cake containing no flour or sugar.
These restrictions pointed to the great tradition of Sephardic Jewish cakes which rely for their richness on eggs and nuts, both of which were easily foraged by early man. I first encountered these cakes, made at Passover, in Claudia Roden’s 1968 A Book of Middle Eastern Food. This version, made with oranges, dates back to the 14th century when Jews fled from Spain and Portugal where these cakes, somewhere between a cake and a pudding, can still be found. Don’t be fooled by the cake’s plain looks—it’s a blowout rich enough to help any modern-day primitive man or woman live to hunt another day.
I was pretty pleased with this Caveman version, the almonds give a decadent richness and the eggs soothe away any concerns about the “sugar-free” component. One of the things I love most about this is the novelty of boiling, then blending, whole fruit—frugal cave-folk would surely have approved—which gives the finished cake a wonderful speckled orange effect. Fred and Pebbles were certainly delighted and the glazed and replete look on their faces reassured me they wouldn’t be chasing wild boar anytime soon. Wilma would definitely have won the Bedrock bake-off with this.
2 oranges, about 375g (in season, mandarins, tangerines and clementines make a delicious variation)
200g almonds, blanched and finely ground
20g Natura or other sucralose-based sweetener, which is equivalent to 200g of caster sugar
2 tbsp orange flower water (optional)
1 tsp baking powder
Carefully wash the oranges, place in a pan then cover with water and boil for about 2 hours. Take out the fruit and leave to cool. Remove all pips then put the whole fruit, skin and all, into a food processor and blend to a pulp.
Preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius (you could try it on the campfire, but I can’t be held responsible for the outcome) and grease a 21cm loose-bottomed tin.
In a large bowl whisk the eggs, then beat in the almonds, sugar, baking powder, pulped orange and orange flower water. Beat well until everything is thoroughly mixed, then pour into the tin.
Bake for about 1 hour, or until a skewer comes out clean and the top is golden brown. Leave the cake until cool and preferably for at least a day—it keeps well for a few days.
For non-cavemen, these cakes are sometimes served with an orange sugar syrup; we ate ours with fresh cream (malai) and raspberries.