I’ve come in for a bit of flack recently from people who say they’d like to eat simple, tasty, healthy (low-carb) food on a regular basis, but at the end of a long day are too tired, busy or hungry to cook the recipes I post on Primal Plate’s blog.
I can empathise, but like everything else in life, whether you cook or don’t cook really depends on your perception and priorities. The likes of Jo Wicks (The Body Coach) and TV celebrity chefs may be able to briefly convince you that it’s possible to knock up a delicious meal in 15 minutes flat, but try a couple of their ‘simple’ recipes out for yourself (how about a vegetable stir-fry?) and you’ll likely conclude one of two things; 1) there’s something wrong with you because it’s taken you nearly an hour to cook a meal that’s should have taken a quarter of that time, or; 2) it’s a con, so next time you’ll just buy a ‘ready-meal’ instead.
The fact is, it wouldn’t take me much less than 15 minutes to singlehandedly boil an egg and prepare a couple of slices of buttered toast - let alone to create a family meal. Realistically, if you want to eat well, you need to make space in your life to cook. That said, many Primal Plate recipes are no more complicated than the fast and furious meal suggestions promoted on television and social media.
Many of the recipes I post often involve nothing more than throwing everything together in a bowl, whacking it into a tin and getting on with life whilst the oven does its thing. I suggest you start with Grain-free Bread and take it from there.
However, if you want ‘speedy’ recipes, look for those that have no more than 5 main ingredients. For example, Primal Plate’s Courgetti with Cherry Tomatoes & Asparagus, Leek, Stilton & Walnut Stuffed Mushrooms or Italian Style White Fish in Tomato Basil Broth. You can add today’s recipe for Eggs Florentine to the list.
Personally, I don’t find cooking a chore when it’s a shared opportunity to create something tasty to eat with the people I love, but on this occasion, just to satisfy my curiosity, I asked my ‘sous chef’ John to step down from his food-prep duties, whilst I switched on a stop-watch and got on with making Eggs Florentine without his help.
No slouch in the kitchen, I could make this recipe in my sleep! In my head, I’d roughly calculated 12 minutes to steam-boil the eggs, 2 minutes to peel them, 4 minutes to make a quick cheese sauce, 3 minutes to wilt and drain some ready-washed spinach and 4 minutes final cooking time under a hot grill. Total: 25 minutes.
But not so fast! It actually took 37 minutes 21 seconds to bring everything together and about 3 minutes to finish if off under the grill - i.e. 40 minutes for an experienced cook to prepare and serve a simple meal for three people. A novice cook would take longer. My point is, there’s a lot of kidology going down in the kitchen! What you see on TV cookery programmes and on social media is not what you get. I know, because I trained Sarah to compete in Junior Masterchef and the winner in her heat had the majority of his ingredients for his curry pre-made by his mother! Sure, a professional celebrity chef could probably chop an onion in 20 seconds flat but who peeled the damn thing in the first place? Eggs Florentine requires you to grate cheese and peel eggs - simple enough to do but time-consuming. If you’re being filmed, you can make these behind the scenes tasks magically disappear but you have to allow for these ‘extras’ when cooking at home.
In my case, every partner I’ve ever had (similarly my children) will step into the breach to fulfil the role of peeling, chopping, slicing, grating - as well as the ongoing washing-up. A glass of wine in hand, our combined efforts to get the meal on the table heralds the end of our working day and the start of social time. It’s pleasure not pain and something we all look forward to.
None of the photographs on Primal Plate are ‘staged’ - it is the actual food we’re about to eat that day. Primal Plate is a cookery blog and its raison d’être is to encourage people to spend more time in the kitchen and learn how to eat properly. By showing you what we eat and sharing innovative, primarily vegetarian recipes that aren’t made with sugar, grains, legumes, unhealthy fats and cancer-causing meat I hope to convince people that cooking at home pays dividends on the time invested, namely: quality time spent with your family, delicious dinners, optimal health, quick loss of excess body-fat and easy weight maintenance.
You reap the consequences of your actions either way. With so many major health issues now affecting so many people, it’s time for us to get back in the kitchen and to teach our children to do likewise.
It’s not just that people think themselves too busy to cook - it’s a lack of basic cookery knowledge that’s also part of the problem. Primal Plate is here to help. Off the top of my head, I can think of more than a dozen home-cooked, easy-to-make meals that we turn to for busy days, which haven’t yet featured on this blog. In response to your feedback, I’ll be rolling out my quick, tasty ideas in the forthcoming weeks and months. You’ll find these in the Recipes section of Primal Plate’s blog under Primal Pronto.
To start with, my variation on the classic Eggs Florentine recipe. It's made with spinach, hard steam/boiled eggs and topped with a flour-less Primal cheese sauce before being finished off under the grill. A truly indulgent brunch, light lunch or supper to treat family and friends to.
Eggs Florentine (Serves 4)
8 organic free-range eggs
1 tbsp olive oil
500g organic spinach, ready-washed
225g crème fraîche (I used Rodda’s crème fraîche because it doesn’t split when heated)
200g Gruyere cheese, finely grated
1 dsp (20g) Dijon mustard
Pinch of cayenne pepper
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Boil a kettle of water. Pour about 2.5cm (1 inch) of the boiling water straight from the kettle into a saucepan.
Place a steaming basket inside the pan and place the eggs into the steamer-basket (I find a collapsible steamer most useful because one-size fits all pans).
Put the lid on the pan and steam/boil the eggs for 12 minutes until hard-boiled.
Whilst the eggs are cooking, heat up a large pan (big enough to hold all the spinach) over a high heat. When the pan is really hot add a tablespoon of olive oil and throw in the spinach (you may need to do this in 2 or 3 batches - allowing each batch to wilt down slightly before adding the rest). Stir fry the spinach for 1-2 minutes until it has all wilted.
Tip the cooked spinach into a colander and press out as much liquid as you can - I use a potato masher but the back of a spoon will do. Return to the pan and lightly season with sea salt and black pepper.
Heat the crème fraîche, mustard and 160g of the cheese together in a saucepan over a medium/high heat. Whisk continuously until the cheese has melted and you have a very hot, but not boiling, unctuously smooth, cheese sauce. Take the pan off the heat and season with a pinch of cayenne pepper and two pinches of sea salt.
Tip the eggs into a bowl of cold water then quickly peel them (if they're still too hot, hold them in a clean tea towel so you don’t burn yourself) then place each shelled egg onto a clean chopping board and cut in half.
Preheat the grill to high.
To assemble the dish: spoon the spinach along the bottom of four individual gratin dishes (alternatively, use one large gratin dish). Place four egg halves per person (yolk side down) on top of the spinach then evenly spoon or pour over the hot cheese sauce making sure each egg is covered. Sprinkle the rest of the grated cheese evenly over the top of the eggs.
Finish under the hot grill for 3-4 minutes or until heated through and golden brown.
If you’re looking for quick, healthy, vegetarian and Primal meal ideas, organic, free-range ‘pastured’ eggs are the business! However, after all my years in the kitchen I’ve only just ‘twigged on’ to steam-boiling eggs! I can’t even remember where I read about this method, but it’s altogether a much easier and reliable way to boil eggs because you can take them straight from the fridge and, because they’re not actually immersed in the boiling water, they're much less likely to crack when the heat first hits them. They’re cooked to perfection in exactly 6 minutes for a soft-boiled egg and 12 minutes for hard-boiled. Primal Pronto at its best!
Annoyingly, as with Parmesan cheese, it’s hard (impossible?) to find vegetarian Gruyere. Joseph Heler make British Gruyere with non-animal rennet but having spoken to them today, I was informed they do not supply their cheese pre-packed to supermarkets but rather to retail, wholesale food service suppliers as an ingredient for their ‘ready meals’. You may have more luck finding vegetarian versions of Emmental (the melting quality and nutty taste is quite similar to Gruyere) or Edam (always check the packaging to confirm it’s vegetarian) - use either of these instead of Gruyere if you’re strictly vegetarian.
Carbohydrate 4g Protein 35g - per portion