Friday, 29 November 2013

Bacon Success

After curing, refrigerating, rinsing, drying and hanging, this morning it was finally time to try out the bacon! Oh my, it was yummy! Not too salty and not too sweet, with a nice hint of thyme. Now all I can think about is how to make different flavours... Maybe maple syrup as sweetener, different spices, oh, the possibilities are endless...

This is the recipe I used:
Then refrigerate for 6 days (three days, plus one day per half inch thickness, plus one day to be on the safe side) and turn it over once a day.
Next rinse, pat dry and hang in (cold) garden shed for 24 hours to dry.
Finally cut it into slices, fry and enjoy!

Thursday, 28 November 2013

The Elusive Spaghetti Squash

I had read about it in so many American paleo blogs, but I had yet to see one with my own eyes, until today! The elusive spaghetti squash arrived with my weekly veg box. Hooray! Now I just need to find those recipes that I had disregarded...

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Making Bacon 3

Dry-cured bacon has been rinsed, attached to the bacon hook and transferred to the shed to hang for 24 hours. So excited!

Autumnal Benefits

With autumn well and truly underway and the trees shedding their vibrant leaves, last weekend I finally found a spare hour or two to tackle the mounting leaf coverage in our garden.

We have two large Lime trees in our garden, that seem to hold an enormous number of leaves and which come autumn turn a vivid yellow and then promptly fall to the ground. For a short while, this yellow blanket transforms our garden until the rain comes and makes the leaves a slip hazard.

So, I spent Sunday morning sweeping and clearing up these leaves. This made me think about the benefits:

I was outside. It was a brisk morning (5-6ºC), the sun was shining and there was not a cloud in the sky, so this made me feel happy;
I was burning calories. Sweeping and clearing leaves gets heart rate up, so I was keeping fit;
I was tidying the garden. With the leaves gone, the garden is back to looking fairly respectable and the borders are clear;
I was removing the hazard. No-more slip-sliding down the path, especially treacherous when you have a young baby.

In total, I had filled 3 large refuse sacks full of leaves which I left out for refuse collection on the Tuesday. I thought afterwards, there must be a way of using all of these leaves for our benefit. A much better scenario would be, for us to have a composting bin ready for the leaves, so that we could turn them into leaf mould, ready for feeding our garden the following year. 

It goes to show, that even the seemingly most mundane chore of clearing leaves can provide health, well-being and garden benefits. The leaf blanket has returned, so I am sure I will be out in the garden again this weekend!

Paleo Porridge (when you're missing that extra bit of beige in the morning)

My fast and easy beige breakfast. :-) 

2-3 eggs
80 ml coconut cream
1 tablespoon coconut flour
1 tablespoon desiccated coconut
A few nuts to add texture
Salt (don't forget!)
Cinnamon, cardamom, ginger to taste (Xmas!)
Dollop of coconut oil/ ghee/ butter

Heat and stir until the porridge thickens.

Add banana, berries, other fruit to decorate (or just plonk it in, who decorates anything in the morning anyway). Ta-daa!

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

The Messiness Gene (or how my spice cabinet exploded)

I am part of a clan that clearly exhibits the characteristics of the TIDYNESS gene. Unfortunately, that gene must have met with significant resistance in me, because it was clearly overpowered by the “within-seconds-of-arriving-my-belongings-will-explode-across-the-room” gene. And no, putting things back where I found them is not an approach that actually works, that is just tedious.

This trait has found a new outlet since having to learn to cook meat, clearly manifesting itself in my spice "cupboard" (obviously not a cupboard, as the actual cupboard is full of nuts, seeds, nut flours and various other dubious "stuff"): 
The above comprises sea salt, rock salt, kelp, black pepper, chili, paprika, cumin, garlic, mustard, coriander seeds, caraway seeds, bay leaves, basil, oregano, thyme, sage, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, licorice, Chinese Five Spice, garam masala, saffron, turmeric, etc. (All nicely framed by jars of ghee, coconut oil, olive oil, vinegar, tamari and some forgotten Swedish alcoholic concoction from yesteryear's Christmas).
Unfortunately, my spice hoard is now such a mess that I often find myself with multiple bags of label-less leaves/pods/seeds/powders that I cannot identify. What may claim to be oregano on the label, is actually basil. And those brown powders in the glass jars are not interchangeable, unless the aim of the dish is to be extreeeemely Pan-Asian, as in inclusive of everything from Siberia to Malaysia. 
Conclusion: Although being paleo/primal is supposedly a way to alter gene expression, it is obviously powerless when faced with my messiness gene. Damn.

Seasonal Vegetables Are So Pretty

Red cabbage, fennel and celebration squash ready for roasting

Monday, 25 November 2013

Easy Portable Breakfast or Lunch

This is an easy portable breakfast or lunch which can be done the night before. Take a few gluten-free sausages, squeeze them from their skins into ramekins (or muffin tins if you prefer) and line the bottom and sides with sausage meat. Then crack an egg into each ramekin, add salt, pepper and possibly some herbs. Pop in the oven at 175 degrees for c 25 minutes, until the eggs are cooked the way you like them. Ready to eat straight away or store in the fridge until the next morning. By the way, the sausage and eggs easily come out of the ramekins, so you don't have to take your crockery with you if you are having lunch on the go.

A pack of six sausages at 400g will make six sausage and egg creations.

Boiling Bones

So, my new food experiment involves boiling bones to make a grey jello-like substance, aka broth. As with all my food experiments, it looks pretty grim, but tastes, well, ehem, yeah, ok.

So why do it? The theory behind paleo is that our ancestors would have eaten the whole animal and let nothing go to waste, i.e. nose to tail. The modern way of eating focuses on eating all the pretty bits (fillet, anyone?), whereas the offal and bones and skin and tendons and tougher pieces of meat often get left in the bin. Unfortunately so, as these have some very important nutrients that we now look to supplements to get. Cheapo as I am, I reckoned I would give a few pence to my butcher for some bones rather than go to Holland & Barrett to buy another overpriced bottle of pills…

Supposedly, bone broth will make my gut happy, my bones and joints stronger and my skin glow. We shall see! Until then, I shall be enjoying my bizarre new hobby. Lemme know if you know where I can find a bunny to boil? 

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Brassica Napobrassica!

2013 has been an extremely good year for this root vegetable. Out of all the vegetables we planted in our garden at the beginning of the year, the crop with the largest yield has been the good old Swede. I am not entirely sure why it did so well, but it grew in abundance and completely over shadowed its smaller rooted brother, the beet.

Needless to say, we finally succumbed last weekend and dug them up. We now have a box full of Swede in the shed and last night we roasted a couple to see how they tasted. To our horror they had an extremely strong bitter taste and were pretty inedible, disappointing to say the least. After a bit of searching online we found that as the Swede is a hardy veg, it actually likes the cold weather and is very much like a Turnip in that it requires a good cold frost to turn some of the starches into sugar.

We have now taken the box out of the shed and are hoping that the colder weather sweetens the Swede! We’ll keep you posted on whether the cold improves the taste.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Making Bacon 2

I started on my home curing bacon experiment last night. This is what I used:

1kg pork belly
40g organic curing salt
10g sugar (5g white and 5g dark brown - I was surprised that I still had some after clearing my cupboards)
Some fresh ground black pepper
1tsp dried thyme

I rubbed the pork belly with the spice mix, wrapped it in cling film and stuck it in the fridge. Now I just need to wait five days, then hang it and then finally eat it by the end of next week. Can't wait!

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Parade of Random Lunches

I think my colleagues can attest to that the great art of culinary presentation is not my forte.  Meat, a dollop of coconut oil and a side serving of carrot. Ta-daaa! Lunch is served. 

It isn't pretty to look at but I swear, my lunches nowadays are tastier than ever before, despite mostly being served cold (my relationship with microwave ovens is frosty at best). I will stretch to pouring som boiling water on it to melt the fat.... Et voila! A scrumptious soup! INCLUDING a side of free entertainment for my colleagues. :-)

Chai Latte

I regularly meet up with other mothers in different cafés in North London and I am invariably that awkward person who asks for a variation of what is on the menu (remove this, add that) or asks for something that isn't on the menu, for example cream to go with my americano. The Sacred café in Highbury has cream to go with their tasty coffee (yay!). Lately, however, I have been hit by the irresistible smell of chai latte when I enter. A couple of weeks ago, I gave in and had a chai latte with a minimal amount of honey. It was amazingly flavoursome and felt really seasonal! It got me thinking that I must be able to make a paleo version of the drink.

So last night I tried making chai latte with egg milk and no added honey... Simon and Cecilia were my willing tasters. I ground spices with my pestle and mortar (clove, black pepper, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom), roughly based on the recipe from Show me the curry. Then boiled them with a little water and popped in a roibos tea bag - it was evening after all. Then I made egg milk with two eggs, hot water, coconut oil and butter, nice and frothy after using my immersion blender. Put it all together and it looked and smelled amazing.

The experiment went wrong somewhere, because it didn't taste of very much even though we were left with mugs full of spices once we had finished the drinks. Not bad for a first try, but more experimenting is needed!

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Danish Paleo Bread

Going LCHF/paleo has been a gradual process for me. Bread was one of the last things to go. Giving up pasta, rice, sugar, potatoes and legumes was relatively easy after the initial head aches and tiredness during transition to a low carb diet. Bread though was more difficult. I used to bake amazing sourdough bread. You know, the artisan kind served in restaurants. So, initially I just upped the ratio of butter and toppings to bread. That worked fine, but then I read the book Wheat Belly and decided that the bread had to go, too.

Since then I have tried quite a few bread substitutes and recently I finally found something totally scrummy; the Danish version of paleo bread. It tastes like Danish rye bread. It is so good!

Soak the following in lots of cold water overnight:
100g walnuts
50g hazelnuts
50g brazil nuts
100g sunflower seeds
100g pumpkin seeds

Rinse and drain, then add:
50g chia seeds
150g linseeds
5 large eggs
100ml extra virgin olive oil
2tsp salt

Mix all well and pour into a bread tin (I put grease proof paper in so it doesn't stick). Bake in the oven for one hour at 160C and then let cool completely before cutting into it.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Chicken Anatomy

Roast chicken is a favourite in our household. I like leg and Simon likes breast, so it's perfect for us. Anyway, I wanted to try out "spatchcocked" chicken from the NomNomPaleo app. It looked so good and the chicken roasts faster and more evenly than when doing it whole.

I took out my scissors and kitchen knife and attacked the bird, removing the backbone, flipping it open, seasoning with salt and pepper, rubbing in some fat in the skin... Only when I was supposed to tuck in the wing tips did I realise that I got the anatomy back to front and had not removed the backbone at all, but instead removed cartilage between the chicken breasts. Oops! I think I need to work on my chicken anatomy before I become a butcher!

It clearly wasn't a complete failure though. The skin crisped up nicely and the chicken roasted in under an hour instead of 80 minutes. It just wasn't quite the way I had intended.

Oxymoron of the Day: The Dairy-Free Latte

When starting out on this adventure of a diet, I would never have thought that I would one day cut out most dairy. For the first two years, most of my calories probably came from heavy cream, butter and cheese. I figured that my dairy swigging ancestors were backing me up on this one: I was genetically destined to dine on dairy.

Maybe so, but after reading a fair few books, blogs and articles on the subject, I started questioning whether all that PROCESSED dairy was actually good for me. Perhaps that homogenised, pasteurised dairy bore very little resemblance to what my ancestral dairy drinkers consumed?

So I started to experiment. Stopped buying cheese and cream. Clarifying my butter. Kept dairy as a treat when having food out on weekends. After noticing a few convincing changes (no monthly pain, no colds), I decided to stick to it.

One challenge remained, however. My weekday coffee. Without cream, what was the point? I tried chucking loads of butter into it (aka bulletproof coffee), but never liked it. Tried coconut cream, but it was too sweet. Coconut oil, ghee... All of it was just plain dissatisfying and sometimes bordering on disgusting. So before putting my espresso thingy up for recycling, I tried one more, slightly nausea inducing experiment: the egg latte.

Egg. Ghee or coconut oil. Espresso. Hand mixer.

The rest is history, because the result was Heaven.In.A.Mug.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Making Bacon

I like bacon. I might even go as far as saying 'I love bacon'. Let's just say, we use a lot of it in our household. It is no longer just a treat for the weekend, but it may just sneak into a weekday breakfast or feature as part of a dinner. Bacon just goes with anything. There is the classic combo of chicken and bacon, but it also goes so well with salmon or on its own to spice up that stir fried cabbage.

Seeing as I like bacon so much, I want to make sure that I get the right kind. I was looking at the ingredients on my favourite web based retailer's website and most of their free-range and organic bacon had the same preservatives in them: E252 and E250, also known as potassium nitrate (saltpetre) and sodium nitrite. I am not entirely convinced that I need to ingest vast amounts of these preservatives and I vaguely remembered seeing one of these food programmes about curing bacon. It could have been Jamie Oliver or Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, there are just so many! Anyway, time to do some research, i.e. Google search and speaking to Simon's brother the chef. Turns out, all you need is salt, sugar and some spices, and a nice piece of pork belly.

Being slightly risk averse, I decided to purchase a ready-made mix of curing salt. I chose an organic one from here:

I also bought a three-pronged bacon hook, so I can hang my pork belly in the shed.

The nice guys at Weschenfelder assured me that it should be delivered by Wednesday. Ooh, the excitement!

Update to follow.

The Breakfast Dilemma

Lately, breakfast has been my absolute favourite meal of the day. I am actually slightly obsessed with it. This is because I now have quite a few different paleo breakfast options and I actually struggle to decide on which one to make. Paleo porridge, scrambled eggs, pancakes, omelette, etc, etc. The possibilities are endless! Especially since being on maternity leave and having a bit of time in the mornings (breakfast is often timed with lil T's morning nap).

This morning I decided to treat myself more than usual and I made banana pancakes. So easy yet so satisfying! 

1/2 banana, mashed (I had a frozen one, which I nuked briefly)
1 tbs desiccated coconut
3 eggs

Whisk together and fry in loads of fat of your choice (I used butter).
Served with lingonberries, bacon and bulletproof coffee this morning.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

"Why Paleo? You don't need to diet!"

Variants of the above remark are common with both new and older acquaintances and I often struggle to come up with an adequate response. I have gone through various phases of low carb/high fat/ primal/ caveman/ paleo in the last three years and the reasons why I choose to eat in this way have also evolved. Hence, I might be more inclined to cite environmental and animal welfare reasons now, whereas when I started out, I was chiefly concerned about my health. So, going back to the roots of this profound change in my life, here are the main reasons I initially chose to change my diet:

  • Joint ailments run in my family and I hope to avoid or at least delay them significantly by cutting out as many inflammatory foods as possible (sugar, most starches, gluten, seed oils, processed foods, most dairy, conventionally reared animals, etc)
  • Incremental weight gain! I started seeing changes in my body shape from around the age of 35 and although I wasn't too concerned for the time being, I just needed to look around me to see my "inevitable" weight fate.
  • Diabetes, heart disease and all the other modern Western afflictions. These were all very hypothetical diseases, but given my decade or so in Pharma, still on my mind. 
A few months into the dietary changes, my reasons were based on the unexpected changes that I noticed:
  • My blood sugar swings were gone. No more near death experiences while ripping open a packet of raisins. No more hoarding of nuts in my bag on business trips. No time for lunch? No prob!
  • My stamina was up. I could go home, jump into my running gear and just run off. No timing of food intake or water necessary. 
  • My skin cleared up. The culprit was that innocent-looking organic sourdough bread. Just one slice a day...
  • I gained weight but got leaner and more toned, while exercising less. Enough said. 
  • All the other random stuff that I now take for granted: no fungal/ yeast infections, no cold sores, no furry teeth after a meal, no chapped lips, less body odour, less PMS (good-bye dairy, I will miss you), a calm and very happy tummy, etc. 

As you can see, weight is just one of a whole host of health reasons for amending the way I eat. And to be honest, being slim is a pretty weak motivator in comparison to all the other health benefits. Especially as I get to eat bacon, butter and lard! :-)

Friday, 15 November 2013

Gammon Tonight

Tonight we had gammon, the big brother of bacon. It is really easy to cook from raw, and since stores don't seem to sell cooked gammon apart from at Christmas, that is what I needed to do. 

First, I soaked the gammon in water to draw out some of the salt. Maybe the preservatives magically disappear too? Most recipes say to soak overnight, but I only soaked for a couple of hours as I clearly wasn't organised enough to start yesterday. Then I cooked the gammon for 30 minutes per 500g plus 30 minutes. I decided to do half the cooking in water on the stove and the other half in the oven. So, I drained the soaking water and added fresh water, covering half the joint. Spices can be added at this point, but I decided to go natural, i.e. salty. I will try bay leaf, garlic and rosemary some other time.

Once half the cooking time was up, I transferred to ovenproof dish, cut a criss cross pattern in the rind and shoved it into the oven at 180 degrees C for the remaining cooking time. I went against conventional cooking recommendations here, which say to remove the rind. I was hoping for a bit of magical crackling on my joint!

I saved the stock that was created when I cooked the gammon. It makes easy and tasty soup with just some autumn vegetables and left over gammon.

When the time was up, I removed the joint from oven and let it rest under tin foil for 15 minutes. During this time, I stir fried some red cabbage in butter with onion, parsnip and garlic, seasoned with salt, pepper, ginger and cumin. Red cabbage is so beautiful raw. Shame that it stains my hands so much and leaves a line of grime under my fingernails! 

This is what the end product looked like.

There was no magical crackling, but instead some sticky skin, which still was quite yummy. Next time I will remove the rind and see what happens to the fat layer. I guess crackling is only achieved on joints that are just roasted in the oven. 

Thursday, 14 November 2013

The Beginning....

The Paulsson Paleo blog is launched!