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Monthly Archives: December 2013

Winter warmer slow cook – Spice up your life!

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I can’t believe I just coined a phrase from the Spice girl era but you know how phrases stick…! Back in September I went to Morocco for a few days and if you ever want some inspiration for some awesome flavour combos this is the place to go.

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Home of the traditional tagine it is all about the slow cook.  Any meat cooked long and slow offers up delightfully tender morsals, and is so much easier to digest.

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Herbs and spices have long been used for medicinal purposes and now that we are into the colder months it is totally worth nurturing your immune system – along with your soul – because good hearty food will always put a smile on the face, when it is cold and bleak outside! 🙂

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I implore you to experiment with different spice combos.  Here are a few little tit bits I found out about the different spices I brought back from Morocco:

Turmeric: anti-inflammatory and anti viral. It contains something called Curcumin which has a positive effect on cholesterol levels and to top it off, it apparently helps improve insulin sensitivity – so slows down the rate at which sugars enter the blood stream.

Star Anise: More anti-viral, anti fungal, anti bacterial goodness and packed full of anti-oxidants!

Paprika: Vit A, E and Iron

Cumin: contains lots of Iron, anti-oxidants and with antiseptic properties it is another immune booster.  It is also apparently good for your digestion too.

Coriander: Vit A, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Folic Acid, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium and Potassium – in a word good! 😉

Cayenne: anti-fungal and apparently boosts your metabolic rate – bring on that heat!

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I like to use grass-fed not grain fed meat.  This is much better as animals fed just grass are far healthier, which is then passed on to you – you are what you eat after-all!

Grass fed meat contains loads of Omega 3 fatty acids, which most people are lacking, simply because our bodies do not make it and we have to get it from our food or with supplements.  It is most commonly thought of as being found in oily fish. But really variety is key in a healthy diet, so worth getting your Omega 3 from different sources for the ultimate benefits.

Apparently an Omega 3 fatty acid deficiency can cause a range of health issues including: fatigue, depression, poor circulation, and mood swings.  From what I understand, it is important to get the ratio of omega 3 and 6 fatty acids right (3:1 is about right)- too much of the 6 creates inflammation in the body while the 3 reduces inflammation.

Slow cook Beef served in an Onion Squash Bowl!

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Ingredients:

1.5 kg of stewing steak, or beef brisket, or even beef cheeks work well with a slow cook – rich and full of flavour.

couple of Star Anise

couple of dried Bay leaves

1 desert spoon ground Turmeric

1 desert spoon ground Paprika

1 desert spoon ground Cumin

1-2 tsp of Cayenne pepper depending on how spicy you like it.

chopped fresh Coriander

Juice and zest 1 Lime

1 desert spoon Cinnamon

good pinch of Himalayan salt

Black pepper

6 whole cloves of garlic

6-10 whole peeled shallots

200ml of red wine or if you prefer 2 tbsp of madeira – this is optional make it up in water if you prefer.

And enough water to cover the meat and veg

200g Chestnuts roughly chopped (vacuum packed or tinned but not in juice)

A handful of flaked almonds for topping

A handful of fresh spinach per serving

1 onion squash or pumpkin cut in half, seeds scooped out, then carve the flesh out to make a “bowl.” This will make two bowls but obviously, use more squash if you have more people to feed. The stew will make enough for 5-6 people.

Method:

Pre-heat the oven 150C

1) I let the meat rest at room temperature for at least half an hour or so before cooking.  If using a brisket or the cheeks I leave them whole – however with stewing steak I usually chop it into fairly large chunks. Then I rub the spices and seasoning into the meat and place in a large casserole pot.

2) I sear the meat to get some colour all over. I then add the garlic and shallots and allow them to get a little colour.  I then add the wine or madeira and allow that to cook off for a couple of minutes, before adding the lime juice and zest and enough water to cover the vegetables and the meat.

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3) Bring it up to a simmer and then pop the Casserole (lid on) in the oven for at least 4 hours. You only need to check it and stir it after about 2.5 hours – just check there is enough liquid to cover the meat – if not just add a splash more. In the meantime you can cut the squash/pumpkin in half and scoop out the flesh:

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Then wrap the shell in foil like this ready for the oven later:

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Time to have a rest or get your chores done – the beauty of a slow cook is you don’t have to spend hours in the kitchen! 🙂

4) At the 4-5 hour mark I take out the bay leaves and the star anise. I then add to the casserole, the roughly chopped chestnuts and scooped out squash/pumpkin flesh. If the liquid in the pan is looking a bit low eg the meat is not covered I top it up with a touch of water.  I also put the foil wrapped onion squash/pumpkin shell into the oven this will take about 45 minutes to an hour to cook – turning it over half way through cooking – obviously you want it to still retain it’s shape so that it can be used like a bowl.

5) Around the 5-6 hour mark the meat should be lovely and tender.  If your happy with the tenderness of the meat bring it out of the oven and let it rest for at least 20 minutes (lid off). If you have used a brisket or joint of meat gently shred and slice the meat after the meat has rested.

6) Assembly time. Into the cooked squash bowl put a handful of spinach and then add a ladle-ful of stew (the spinach will wilt/cook instantly) and finish with some flaked almonds, chopped coriander or a couple of leaves of spinach for extra colour.  A real bowl of comfort and health! 🙂

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Bella’s “Withnail and I” Chicken… Pina Colada style…

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If you haven’t seen the terribly British cult hit film “Withnail and I” – I highly recommend a watch, it makes me laugh every time.  There is a particular scene where a chicken is roasted upright on  a boot in a traditional wood burning stove and this recipe always reminds me of that “reveal” moment.  I should say that I got the idea for this recipe from the well-known DJ BBQ team who love the slow cook BBQ methods.  They do a recipe with a coke can half filled with Coca Cola – and while I am sure it is very tasty indeed, as you probably know by now, I am not a big fan of sugar or Coca Cola.  So taking the principal of the can (with liquid) and the inner steaming method it produces, here is a twist on the traditional Sunday roast “Withnail & I…Pina colada style.”

This is perfect for the summer BBQ but it tastes so good, it should not be limited to the outside summer fair in my opinion.  It is just as easy to do in the oven.

Pre-heat the oven to 180C and later lowered to 150C

Ingredients:

1 can of organic Coconut Milk (Organic is better – no added nasties)

1 small tin of Pineapple (natural juice) drain the juice & put aside for later and chop the pineapple into bite-size chunks

3-4 cloves of Garlic – you can leave the skin on or peel whatever you prefer.

1 shot of dark rum (you can leave the alcohol out if you prefer)

juice & zest of 1 Lime

2 tsp of Cinnamon

1 tbsp of Paprika

1 tsp Cayenne Pepper

pinch of Himalayan salt

1 medium size free range (organic if poss) Chicken

Method:

1) Peel the label off the can completely.  Pour half the coconut milk out.  I use the left over Coconut milk to make my Quinoa or Chia seed breakfast with berries.  NB (Chia seed needs to be mixed with water to make a gel like consistency before adding the coconut milk)

2) To the half filled coconut milk can, add the pineapple, garlic and the shot of rum.  Don’t be alarmed if it looks like it has curdled, it sorts itself out in the roasting!

3) Pour the lime juice & pineapple juice over the chicken and rub in the cayenne, paprika, cinnamon, salt, pepper and lime zest.

4) Cut any string off the chicken and you might need to make one or two small slits around its cavity so that you can sit the chicken over the can.  You will need to put the can with the chicken, on a large roasting tray – with a lip to catch the juices.

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5) Start the chicken off in the oven at the pre-heated oven temperature for 20 minutes to start getting a bit of colour on the skin. Take the chicken out, then turn the temp down to 150C and wrap the chicken in foil then pop it back in the oven (for BBQ cooking put the lid on the BBQ) for about 1.5-2 hrs (might need to adjust the time depending on the size of your bird: Toptip: the longer the cook the lower the temp).

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Once cooked (juices running clear) give the chicken a rest for at least 3o mins (leave the foil loosely on for this.) It should really fall off the bone and be really tender.I like to serve this dish with some roasted Peppers, Aubergine and red onions in the summer but for a more wintry feel it is great with sautéed Kale, roasted new potatoes or a bed of brown rice or Quinoa.  There should be a natural “Pina Colada” style gravy left in the can. Delish! 🙂

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Chicken Liver Pate – festive nibbles anyone?

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Now I am starting to think about stocking up on things I can have ready to hand to serve to guests, for impromptu festive drinks over the next month or so.  A little pate in the fridge goes a long way at this time of year as it is so rich and indulgent and can be served up really quickly – the perfect accompaniment to bubbles or a glass of wine.

Liver is apparently a great source of trace elements such as Zinc, Copper, Chromium, plus Folate, Iron and is also rich in Choline which aids several metabolic pathways in the body and aids detoxification… perhaps the perfect antidote to the Christmas cheer this season! 😉 It is also high in Vit A and B12 – so good for radiant skin & energy levels. Also brilliant for promoting healthy immunity and digestion and not to mention improved mental function – who doesn’t need that?

Chicken liver is really inexpensive to buy.  I highly recommend going organic on the livers – if you want the optimum detox values, you want a “clean living”  chicken! 😉

I like to serve mine on my Almond & Linseed crackers or thinly sliced toast (all low GI and GF of course!).

Ingredients:

350g Organic Chicken Livers (cleaned)

1 Echallon Shallot finely chopped

100g Coconut Oil (you can use Goat butter if you prefer but I’m quite partial to the Coconut oil for this recipe, it just seems to work really well)

75g Organic Coconut Cream

75ml Madeira

Small bunch of Taragon, leaves gently torn

Small bunch of Thyme, pull the leaves off the main woody stalk

1/2 tsp ground Ginger

1/2 tsp ground Cinnamon

grated Nutmeg to taste

good pinch Himalayan Salt

ground black Pepper to taste

Method:

1) Clean the livers – this basically means cutting away any white, stringy, or sinewy bits which can taste bitter, so worth a little effort here. Then chop into bite sized chunks.

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2) Fry the Shallot in about 2tsp of  the Coconut Oil ( large frying pan) with tarrogon and thyme until slightly softened. Then add the chopped livers (medium heat) and cook until the meat is browned but still slightly pink on the inside should take just a couple of minutes.  Place the mixture into a food processor and allow to cool with the lid off for a bit.

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3) Meanwhile add the madeira, ginger and cinnamon, to the frying pan and simmer for a couple of minutes until reduced by half.  Allow to cool for 5 mins.

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4) Next add the coconut cream to the food processor with liver mixture and blitz until smooth.

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5) Add the madeira mixture to the liver mixture along with 2 tbsp  of coconut oil, salt, pepper and good amount of freshly grated nutmeg to taste.  Then off you go with the whizz button.  Give it a taste and see if the seasoning needs adjusting – it’s really personal taste here.

6) Allow the mixture to completely cool before pouring into a sterilized, kilner jar (I find this mix makes enough to almost fill a 0.5L jar) and place in the fridge for at least 40 minutes to set.

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7) Finally melt the remaining Coconut Oil (or Goat butter if using) – take off the heat and allow to cool for a few minutes before pouring on top of the set pate.  Back in the fridge for a final setting (about 30 mins should be fine). This will keep for about a 7 days in the fridge.

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For the Almond & Linseed Crackers.  These are great because they are high in protein, they compliment the pate really well.  They are also a great vehicle for Sunbutter or Pumpkin seed butter, Manchego (sheep) or Goat cheese.  For those with nut allergies my GF loaf thinly sliced and toasted works really well too.

Ingredients:

400g ground Almonds

2 Egg whites (I use the yolks up to make Mayo or Custard)

3 tbsp light Olive oil

good pinch Himalayan Salt

Black Pepper to taste

75g linseed

1/2 tbsp dried Thyme or Oregano (Or you can use 2 tbsp chopped black olives instead – great for a cheese board!)

Method: Easy peasy!

Preheat the oven to 150C

1) Add the ground almonds to a large mixing bowl along with the egg whites. Mix well with the linseed, dried herbs (olives), salt & pepper and finally add the oil a tablespoon at a time. This should bring the mixture together, enough that you can make a dough ball.  Wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for 3o minutes.

2) Between two sheets of baking paper roll out the dough, this prevents the dough from sticking and falling apart.  You can either use a small cookie cutter or for a more rustic look cut into squares.  Put the cut pieces on a lined baking sheet and keep cutting and rolling until you have used up all the mixture.  It really depends on how thin you roll the dough and how big you cut them, as to how many you will make, but I usually end up with about 30-40 crackers.

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3) Now bake in the oven for about 20-25 minutes or until golden – don’t worry if they are still a little “soft” when you pull them out as they kind of set once cooled, as long as they have a nice golden colour to them they should be fine.  Also try to let cool completely before sampling! 😉

To serve the pate I like to top with a little chopped fresh tarragon and a thin slice of radish for a bit of colour!

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