31/08/2011

Ackee and Saltfish

Native to tropical Western Africa consumption of ackee fruit takes place mainly in Jamaica and is a staple of Jamaican cuisine, their national fruit and the key component of their national dish - Ackee and Saltfish.

Ackee is related to the lychee and produces a pear-shaped fruit. Green unripened fruit can lead to poisoning. When ripe, the fruit bursts open to reveal a bright orange/yellow flesh with the consistency of lightly scrambled egg.

Saltfish is dried and salted cod.

It is important and to read the name of this national dish - Ackee and Saltfish. This is not fish with fruit, but fruit and fish. Ackee and fish should be balanced as equal quantities.

Pass the dutchie ... we've got fish to fry ...

This dish takes some preparation - 24 hours, to be exact, or thereabouts.

First, soak the fish in water, pouring out and replacing a few times. After that, boil the fish for about half an hour and then set aside to cool.

Cooling is important since we're going to be shredding the flesh off the skin which turns gelatinous and can be lava hot!

Flake the flesh off the skin and set aside.

Drain a can of ackees and set aside.

Prepare the other ingredients ...

Slice some streaky bacon into small slices around half a centimetre, cube some red or green pepper, dice some tomatoes and spring onions (scallions, in Jamaican), and rough chop some flat leaf parsley and some thyme.

Finally, finely slice one Scotch Bonnet pepper for a likkle tikkle.

Making the dish is simply a case of putting those ingredients into a frying pan ... in the right order.

Start out with frying off the bacon to release some of its fat content. Once coloured and the fat has rendered out, toss in the fish and sautee until warm.

Add the scallions and fry for a few more minutes, tossing through the fish and bacon.

Add the peppers, tomato, chilli and thyme. Warm through, tossing through thoroughly.

Finally, add the ackees and parsley, gently tossing through to ensure all the ingredients are well mixed while retaining the structure of the delicate fruit and aromatics of the herbs.

Serve out onto a plate and enjoy.

Traditionally, Ackee and Saltfish would be eaten with some plantain, breadfruit, yam, fried dumplings or hard dough bread. Making it paleo, I like strong green vegetables alongside - kale or tenderstem broccoli are great. If you're looking for more carbohydrate, rice might be something you are happy with and makes a good accompaniment.

Certainly, a bottle of Guinness, Dragon Stout or Red Stripe is a must!

Dat a shot!

29/08/2011

Cauliflower Cheese

Classic British, possibly Colonial Cypriot; a simple dish of cauliflower and béchamel sauce.

Béchamel is a milk-based sauce, thickened with butter and flour. Leaving the flour out, we can keep it paleo ...

Trim the florets from a cauliflower and select the tender leaves from the inside.

Steam the florets until soft, drain off and arrange in an oven-proof dish.

Make up a cheese sauce with milk and cream - this will give the slightly thicker sauce, negating the need for flour. Add in the cheese and this will thicken right up. Cheddar is ideal. Just a touch of nutmeg, too.

Pour over the cauliflower.

Breadcrumbs are often used to provide a final crunch, sprinkled over the top - we can deploy a primal weapon here: bacon!

Sprinkle just a little more cheese over the top and then a good handful of fried bacon pieces. Streaky bacon is best here as the fat content really crisps up and the saltiness works so well with the sauce and soft cauliflower.

Place in a pre-heated oven set to 175C for 20 minutes, or so, until the cheese topping has melted fully and the sauce warmed through.

Cauliflower Cheese is a great dish on its own or as an accompaniment, often as part of the traditional Sunday Roast.

Of course, if dairy is out of your paleo diet then just enjoy a bowl of clean steamed cauliflower with some spice and bacon bits!

28/08/2011

Scrambled Eggs over Tenderstem Broccoli

Eggs should be free range at the very least, woodland reared are best since the chickens are left to roam, peck and scratch for grubs natural to their diet, and the taste difference is evident.

Let's get cracking ...

First, steam or boil some tenderstem broccoli and place on a plate.

Crack three eggs into a bowl and gently whisk - not too much as to make a smooth liquid, but just enough to break the yolks and combine lightly. This texture will add to the overall effect of the dish.

Drop a good knob of pastured butter into a frying pan and just after it has melted, pour in the eggs.

Fold the eggs periodically to produce a nice texture and keep lifting off the heat so as not to over cook. The eggs want to be "just done", not dry.

Just before the eggs have fully cooked, drop a little heavy cream into the egg mixture and just fold it gently using the residual heat in the pan to finish the cooking. Optionally, add in a little sea salt at this stage, too.

Spoon over the broccoli. Garnish with a grind of freshly milled black pepper.

27/08/2011

Bacon, Sausage and Mushroom with Sauerkraut

Similar to my Scandinavian inspired fish breakfast, this is the porky cousin - sausage, bacon and mushroom!

Combined with some pickled vegetables - sauerkraut, gherkin and beetroot, and a soured cream and mustard drizzle, topped with a poached egg, this is a deep, tasty break fast with a good pack of probiotics.

Sauerkraut is a superb source of probiotics in the paleo diet; yoghurt, another, although not all paleo people partake of dairy, some do, but only fermented dairy. Sauerkraut provides a wide spectrum of probiotics which will boost the beneficial bacteria in your gut.

Dairy is contentious within the paleosphere, but I am perfectly happy with its inclusion. Soured cream has a good fat profile and the fermentation goes a long way to making it paleo-friendly. I like to use soured cream to make up a nice drizzling sauce with lemon, mustard and a little oil.

Eggs should be free range at the very least, woodland reared are best since the chickens are left to roam, peck and scratch for grubs natural to their diet, and the taste difference is evident.

Time for some oink!

Get some sausages frying off. Collect any fats that render out for later.

Fry off some chopped slices of streaky bacon. Bacon should be outdoor reared and naturally fed - the fatter the better for streaky bacon, which will render its own fat out.

Once a little fat is evident in the pan, toss in some slices of mushroom and cook them through.

Meanwhile make up a poaching liquor from hot water and distilled malt vinegar. Crack the egg into a ramekin and drop into the lightly bubbling water after gently swirling.

Cut the sausages on a jaunty angle and add to the bacon and mushroom pan.

Slice up a gherkin, or two, a few small tomatoes and toss into the pan along with the sausages, bacon and mushrooms.

Drop a generous portion of sauerkraut into the pan and cook through until the liquid has evaporated.

Slice up some strong lettuce leaves and arrange on a plate.

Serve out the hot food onto the plate and lay some cubes of pickled beetroot around.

Take a couple of tablespoons of soured cream into a bowl, add a teaspoon of English mustard and a good squeeze of lemon juice. Stir together and then whisk in a drizzle of oil - extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil are fantastic!

Drizzle over the plate, retrieve the egg, dry it off and lay it on the top, cutting the yolk and twisting a little sea salt over.

... a whirlpool of flavour and a great way to start the day! Enjoy!

15/08/2011

Beef Olives with Purple Sprouting Broccoli

Beef olives are a novel way to enjoy a cheap roasting joint.

Silverside beef can be sliced into thin slices and wrapped around sausage meat. Flavour with a few herbs and some black pepper ... simple and delicious!

Let's make our olives ...

First, procure a good Silverside joint from your butcher; one which long slices can be taken from. Also, ask for some sausage meat - this should be pork, and as close to 100% meat as possible.

Once home, put the sausage meat in the fridge and leave the beef joint out.

Uncooked, slice the joint into slices a few millimetres thick and lay on a board.

You can make up a herb butter by blending herbs, salt and butter together and spreading over the beef beforehand. Strong herbs, full flavoured or heavily scented are ideal: parsley, sage or thyme.

Take a handful of sausage meat and form it into a sausage shape, placing it on the slice of beef.

Roll the beef around the sausage and secure with cocktail sticks if you fancy, otherwise just use the weight of the wrap to hold it in place.

Grind some freshly milled black pepper over the olives and place them in a pre-heated oven set to 180C for 20 minutes. This is enough time to cook the sausage meat through without turning the beef to rubber! Do baste the olives as they cook in the juice.

When ready to eat, remove the olives from the oven and let the sit for a few minutes while you prepare your vegetables.

Something simple, like tenderstem or purple sprouting broccoli is superb! Steam the vegetables and plate up.

Slice the olive on a Chef's angle to reveal the stuffing and lay over the vegetables.

You could make the sausage meat stuffing more interesting with some other ingredients in the mix, like apricots, capers, nuts, that kind of thing. Think "stuffing" ...

Welsh Rarebit

Originating in eighteenth century Britain, Welsh rarebit or Welsh rabbit is a dish made with a savoury sauce of melted cheese and various other ingredients and served hot over toast.

While debate continues in the paleosphere around the inclusion of dairy in the diet, I endorse the inclusion! Toast is something I cannot, so we're going to keep it paleo.

Recipes vary tremendously, but the staples remain the same - cheese, milk, flour and mustard often feature. This is an easy one to make by simply increasing the cheese and using cream rather than milk and flour.

For the cheese, we're going to use Caerphilly.

Caerphilly is a hard white cheese from Wales, the town of Caerphilly no less. Made from cow's milk and with a fat content of around 50%, this cheese has a pleasant sour tang and crumbly texture.

Time for some rarebit ...

Take a Portobello mushroom and remove the stalk. This is the toast!

Splash a little Worcestershire Sauce over the mushroom and place it in a pre-heated oven set to 200C for 10 minutes. By the time it is ready to remove, it should be soft ... but not completely lost its structure.

Meanwhile, prepare the rarebit ...

Take a saucepan and crumble some Caerphilly in, pouring over some double cream.

Place the saucepan on the hob and warm through without burning or sticking the mixture to the bottom of the pan.

Once melted and thick, add some English mustard. Mustard is yellow and comes in jars labelled Colman's. It's that simple - if it doesn't say Colman's on the label, it's not proper English mustard! Half a teaspoon is fine. One teaspoon for the more adventurous!

That's the rarebit made.

Assemble the dish by placing the cooked mushroom on a plate, having removed any excess liquid that has formed. Pour over the rarebit and grind a twist of fresh black pepper over the top.

Mwynhau!

14/08/2011

Romanescu Stalk Amuse Bouche

"Amuse bouche"? Amuse the mouth, tickle the mouth, get the taste buds going ...

The purpose of an amuse bouche is to get the taste sensation moving; often served as a pre-starter, an amuse bouche should be pack full of a single flavour, heavily enhanced - salt and lemon in perfect balance with a single ingredient is the key.

Romanescu? Yes, that curious vegetable that is both cauliflower and broccoli; a fractal plant with as curious a conflux of flavour.

Let's amuse our mouths ...

Trim off all the raggy green off the stalks and slice them very fine.

Gently fry the stalk slices in pastured butter, topping up with some bouillon and simmering for a few minutes until really soft.

Bouillon is a broth made from a simmering of mirepoix, bouquet garni and some bones. You can look up mirepoix and bouquet garni but here's a cheat - you can buy powered bouillion which only needs a generous tablespoon in a litre of water. If you wanted to make up your own, it's onion, celery and carrots (the mirepoix), thyme, bay and sage tied together (the bouquet garni), some bones and water - simmer for a few hours to extract all the flavour, freeze excess as appropriate.

Back to the amuse bouche ...

Pour the solids into a receptacle and blend to a fine paste, adding the liquid to soften things up and bring the total consistency to a thick soup. While blending, add a drizzle of avocado oil to emulsify into the soup giving a really creamy texture.

Pass the blended soup through a fine sieve and return to the heat.

Squeeze a splash of lemon into the hot liquor and serve in cappuccino cups.

Cooked Ham with Fried Egg and Sauerkraut

My local farm shop sells off the trimmings and tail ends of their deli meats in packages at such a price it is impossible not to walk past!

I regularly get a packet of cooked ham, turkey or beef which are delicious over salad leaves as a starter to a main meal, but better as a midnight hunt and gather in the fridge.

Some cooked ham is a perfect partner to eggs.

Eggs should be free range at the very least, woodland reared are best since the chickens are left to roam, peck and scratch for grubs natural to their diet, and the taste difference is evident.

What better than to accompany with a good punch of pickled cabbage - sauerkraut!

Sauerkraut is a superb source of probiotics in the paleo diet; yoghurt, another, although not all paleo people partake of dairy, some do, but only fermented dairy. Sauerkraut provides a wide spectrum of probiotics which will boost the beneficial bacteria in your gut.

Let's assemble the dish ...

Form a good helping of sauerkraut in the middle of a plate - use a forming ring if you need, although just a good helping encouraged into a round with a fork or spoon is perfect.

Lay some cooked ham over the sauerkraut.

Griddle or fry off a couple of spears of asparagus for dipping in the egg.

Fry off an egg in a little pastured butter, sunny side up is best. Use a small pan or a forming ring in a larger pan.

Gently slide the fried egg onto the top of the stack and gently place the asparagus spears on the very top.

This could easily be done as a play on Eggs Benedict, with a poached egg and lashings of thick hollandaise over the the top! One for next time ...


07/08/2011

Tchanakhi with Savoy Cabbage and Sauerkraut

Чанахи - Tchanakhi (or Chanakhi) is a Georgian dish of slow-cooked lamb and aubergine. That's Georgia the country, not the state in the US.

The ingredients are simple - lamb or mutton of any cut, aubergine, tomatoes, carrots, onion, garlic, parsley and pototoes. Potatoes? Yes! Generally, we'd leave them out of a paleo diet given the high insulin response that is generated, but some people might be okay with leaving them in.

My local Russian Restaurant http://www.rurest.co.uk uses Tkemali in their Tchanakhi - a Georgian plum sauce of both red and green cherry plums, garlic, coriander, dill, cayenne pepper and salt. It should be pungently sour!

Savoy cabbage is a no-brainer - pack full of great vitamins, a really good chew and a damn good flavour to put with a heavy stew of meat and vegetables.

Sauerkraut is a superb source of probiotics in the paleo diet; yoghurt, another, although not all paleo people partake of dairy, some do, but only fermented dairy. Sauerkraut provides a wide spectrum of probiotics which will boost the beneficial bacteria in your gut.

To the kitchen ...

Put a casserole dish next to your chopping board - a crock pot or slow cooker would do; just something with a lid. We're going to layer the ingredients in, so read on and take your time - no cooking is required at this point.

Place pieces of lamb of mutton as a base for the dish, cut into manageable pieces - this should be about half of the content of the dish as a whole. Pour over some Tkemali and shower with chopped parsley. If you're going to make your own Tkemali, just stone the plums and add all the ingredients to a blender, adding a little water if necessary to make a pouring sauce.

Chop an onion and layer over. Slice up some carrots into thin slices of a couple of millimetres and layer over the lamb. Grind a little black pepper over at this point.

Cube up aubergine and layer over the top - these vegetables make up the other half of the dish. Shower more parsley over.

Drop in ten or fifteen good dollops of tomato puree into the dish and if the lamb was lean, place a good spoonful of fat in the middle of the dish - lard, tallow or bacon grease is all good.

Make up a beef stock and add some minced garlic before pouring over the dish which should just cover it. Loosen the tomato puree into the sauce.

Lid on ... oven set to 180C for an hour and then drop the heat to 120C for a couple more hours.

The sauce will reduce as it cooks, but if a thicker sauce is required simply add a little arrowroot stirred in a few minutes before serving ... best, made into a liquid with a splash of vodka!

While my local Russian Restaurant serves this with creamy mashed potatoes on the side, serving over strong green vegetables such as thick cabbage or tenderstem broccoli is superb. Topped with a good helping of sauerkraut and you have a perfect paleo meal!

Sadghegrdzelo!

05/08/2011

Bully Beef Hash

To the Brits, this would be Corned Beef Hash ... but as is so often, we are a common people with our friends over the water in the States, divided by a common language; and, corned beef for them is not the same as corned beef to us.

Corned beef to us comes in tins - it is beef, beef fat, salt and (shhh!) a little sugar.

I'll go with the term Bully Beef for the title.

This was one of my stop-gap pre-paleo meals, made from an onion, some garlic, a tin of corned beef, a tin of peeled plum tomatoes, a tin of baked beans, some chopped carrot, some chopped potato and some spices.

We can make it paleo ...

Get all your ingredients together on a chopping board. You can use whatever you like, but go for tastes and mouth-feel combinations that will be real comfort food. Being a stop-gap meal, this is pretty much whatever you have available.

In this instance, I went for corned beef, chorizo, onion, peeled plum tomatoes, carrot, yellow courgette, large asparagus spears, artichoke palms, a mushroom and a number of flavourings - garlic, capers, chopped pickled chillis, extra paprika, jalapeno chilli flakes, smoked sea salt and freshly milled black pepper. Finally, some chopped parsley.

The principle of cooking is simple - cook the ingredients which need the most cooking first and the ones which will release the most aroma in last.

I started out my just frying off the chorizo chunks in a little olive oil, flipping over so that both sides were well cooked and would be nice and crisp. I should mention that I like to remove the shin from my chorizo before cooking and like the picante type: spicy.

Next, I added the onions and sautéed them off for a few minutes until soft.

Add the can of peeled plum tomatoes and mash them down a little, adding in about half a can of water.

Drop in any crunchy vegetables that need a little boiling - the carrots were added at this point and the pan boiled down until the liquid had reduced and the carrots became softer.

Cube up the corned beef and add it to the mix now, gently ... that's gently turning it so as not to lose much of the structure of the cubes. Corned beef is already cooked and so we just need it to warm through without descending into a slop of meat and over-cooked vegetables.

Add in all the other softer vegetables and flavour ingredients. Turn then through the dish gently and allow 5-10 minutes of gentle cooking to warm everything through.

At the last minute, add in chopped parsley.

Serve into wide bowls and accompany with some communal guacamole and lettuce leaves.

03/08/2011

Bacon & Fried Egg Sandwich

Bacon and eggs make a perfect marriage! I know ... I've said that before, but there is something so wonderful about salty, fatty bacon (I like streaky bacon from the belly) grilled and put together with butter laced fried eggs.

Fast food, for on the go ... a simple snack to wolf down and get on with your day, the Bacon and Egg Butty is a "to go" food.

Being paleo, the bread is a non-starter - we're not going to do that, but we can get very close by simply frying up some eggs.

Let's get our butty (a British pseudonym for sandwich) sorted ...

Get your bacon grilling, frying, griddling or however it is you like it.

Take a smallish base frying pan - 9" in diameter is fine. Drop a little lard or tallow in there to get the magic started and crack a couple of eggs in ensuring that they meet and run into each other. Crack them next to each other and add in a third if need be - you're after a base of eggs.

Once you think they're done on the underside, either flip over or put under the grill for a few minutes until the whites have gone opaque.

Slide the eggs out onto a plate and load up with bacon on one side. Flip the other half over.

Voila! Bacon and Egg Butty!

Consume rapidly and noisily, and get about your day!

02/08/2011

Baked Chilli Eggs Wrapped in Bacon

Bacon and eggs are a perfect marriage! Throw a little spice into that marriage and you have sheer heaven!

Let's spice things up for them ...

You will need a baking tray for baking buns, cup cakes, or whatever you call them; failing that, some ovenproof ramekins will do fine. If you buy large eggs you need a deep tray or some silicone bun cases.

Fry off some strips of bacon - you need a couple of rashers per helping. I like streaky bacon, which is salty and full of delicious fat.

Cook the bacon so that it has just started to colour, but does not become stiff. Form the bacon into rounds in the tray as soon as they are out of the pan. Keep blowing your fingertips!

I am happy to eat fermented dairy and so a thin slice of feta cheese in the base of each helping and more to top gives a tangy and creamy flavour. Feel free to leave this out if you don't eat dairy.

Crack an egg into each round of bacon, garnish with some herbs, a grind of freshly milled black pepper and give each helping a good splash of Tabasco.

Place into an over pre-heated to 200C for 10-15 minutes, until the whites have cooked. Err on the lower side for a just running yolk.

Serve out with a little side-salad, some pickled vegetables and maybe a few slices of avocado. Perfect breakfast!

Ramekins are a better idea if you want to pad out the dish, maybe with some smoked haddock and make a starter, or entrée, out of one large egg.

01/08/2011

Cauliflower Stalk Soup with Scallops

Another "what to do with cauliflower stalks" idea.

Cauliflower stalks are too good to waste and if simple simmering and a good glob of pistou does not float your boat, how about another way of using them?

Let's get chopping ...

Top and tail the stalks and chop them into thin slices, boiling for a few minutes in a pan with bouillon, or just sea salt.

You could add onions, leek, garlic or other flavours, but straight-up cauliflower stalks works well.

Once softened, transfer to a suitable receptacle for blending - I drain off the stalks and add in the liquid later.

Hand blend the stalks until they're a good pulp and then add in a glug of avocado oil. This will emulsify into the vegetables and give it a really creamy texture. You could use extra virgin olive oil, but avocado oil has the right mouth feel for this soup.

Once the oil has emulsified into the mix, gradually pour in the liquid and keep blending. The end result should be a really fine blend - pass through a sieve if you're really proper about getting this as smooth as possible.

Pop the soup back onto the hob just to keep warm while you sauté some scallops.

Sautéing is simply a case of softening some butter or your favourite fat in a frying pan, dropping the scallops in and giving them a couple of minutes on each side before flipping them a few times in the remaining fat.

Pour out the soup into a wide bowl, garnish with parsley and drop three or four scallops into the middle of the bowl.

Simple, easy and damn tasty!

Leftover Brisket Wraps

Brisket is my favourite cut of beef.

From the front of the beast between its front legs, brisket is the superficial and deep pectorals from the cow and since cows do not have collar bones, this muscle holds most of the weight of the animal. Truly, a worked meat and one which is so rich in flavour.

When cooking brisket, cook too much - it is a cheap cut and one which makes so many great leftover meals.

Sliced thin, we're going to make up some simple wraps.

Using long cos lettuce leaves, butter them with something flavoursome - mustard or horseradish are good.

Lay out some slices of cucumber, boiled egg, maybe tomato, that kind of salad ingredients.

Top with a generous but not overwhelming amount of thinly sliced brisket.

Tidy up into a manageable wrap, hold in one hand and get it crammed in your mouth!