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Sober Life
by Sinclair Newton



Sober Life

You should see what happens when people find out you are diabetic. Sometimes they look around to see where you've left the wheelchair.

Another thing is they always look a bit to one side if the question of needles is ever brought up.

It panics hostesses and can even worry the occasional taxi driver.

I know that because I once had to ask one to stop so I could buy a bar of chocolate.

Chocolate? Isn't that supposed to be banned? And cakes and bread-and-butter pudding and alcohol?

Not if you are feeling faint, which I suppose is true for everyone really.

Of course there are special chocolates that contain sweeteners rather than sugar, but they're not the same. I recently found bars of Turron (see José P Ribas's Island Ecology column this week) stuffed with aspartame and not a trace of honey and to be honest it was OK, in that it tasted of almonds, but it didn't have the right stickiness. What we diabetics want is to be pampered.

It's all said for the one-in-ten of us who will have diabetes by the end of the decade in a new book called "Great Healthy Food - Diabetes" from Carroll and Brown, the publishers. It's written by Azmina Govindji who has been a consultant on diet and diabetes and has been chief dietician for Diabetes UK, so she should know.

It says it is the first cookery book to cater for the millions of people who have to watch their sugar intake and for their friends and family who do not. I applaud the sentiment that takes away fear about a little of what you fancy.

Among a hundred delectable recipes, she suggests a wicked Chocolate and Almond Custard Tart. You can get all the ingredients in Ibiza. It is, however, intended for special occasions. I should think so, too. You wouldn't expect to find even normal people (the ones without wheelchairs) scoffing big slabs of this every day.

The Queen Mum might have done, though, washed down with a large gin and Dubonnet.

As far as I know, she wasn't diabetic, though she was incredibly pampered throughout her long, long life. I was impressed by just the one anecdote. Apparently the Queen asked her to pass another glass of wine across some ornate dining table.

"You do realise," the Queen Mother said solemnly, "that you have to reign all afternoon."

I realise we should remember that vast amounts of money thrown at anyone will enable them to make the most of their abilities, however minimal.

I am writing this as a magnificent parade is going on taking her to lie in state. That crown with the world's biggest diamond is sitting on a purple cushion on the gun carriage that carries her coffin. It is a splendid spectacle and makes me feel proud, whatever my blood sugar level might be.

Here's that recipe, made with an old-fashioned egg custard filling.


For the pastry:
55g plain white flour
55g plain wholemeal flour
Pinch of salt
55g chilled reduced-fat spread
2-3 tablespoons water

For the filling:
2 medium eggs, lightly beaten
25g caster sugar
225ml skimmed milk
50g good quality, dark chocolate (75 percent cocoa solids), broken up
2-3 drops vanilla essence
2 tablespoons flaked almonds
Serves 8

1 Preheat the oven to 180degC, gas mark 4. Sift the flours and salt into a bowl.

2 Cut the spread into small pieces and rub it in with your fingertips until it is like fine breadcrumbs. Mix in enough cold water to form soft dough, wrap in cling film and chill for thirty minutes.

3 Roll out the dough and use it to line a 20cm flan tin.

4 Line the pastry shell with foil and fill it with dried beans, uncooked rice or ceramic baking beans. Bake for ten minutes. Remove from the oven, empty out the things that kept it flat and return for a further five minutes. Leave to cool.

5 Meanwhile, whisk the eggs and sugar together in a bowl until they are light and fluffy.

6 Put the milk, chocolate and vanilla essence into a small saucepan and heat gently, stirring continuously, until the chocolate has completely melted and blended in with the milk. Don't allow it to boil.

7 Pour into the beaten eggs, mix well, then strain into the pastry case and top with the flaked almonds. Bake for another 30 -40 minutes until the pastry is golden and the custard has just set.


1 Smile at footman.

2 Accept brimful glass which contains twice as much gin as Dubonnet and some ice

Sinclair Newton