Primal eating and lifestyle principles are trail-blazing strategies that can transform human beings from fat and flabby to lean and toned, from lethargic to energised, and from a degenerative diseased state to optimum health. I for one, am totally sold!
However, in my opinion, the basic premise of Primal eating, which is to eat real food e.g. farm to table grass-fed livestock and vegetables grown in organic soil, and to avoid sugar, grains, unhealthy fats and beans/legumes, isn’t far enough removed from the deeply ingrained (forgive the pun) idea that the ideal meal consists of a big hunk of meat with a smaller side of vegetables.
In my view, this has more to do with fulfilling an emotional need (for greed) than it is about satisfying the body’s physical requirements. It doesn’t take into account the moral dilemma of what it can actually mean (untold suffering of animals and the destruction of environment) for us to continue eating disproportionate amounts of meat, fish, seafood and dairy.
For this reason, Primal Plate would like to propose a paradigm shift in people’s thinking. I believe now is the time for us to learn how to structure meals around a higher proportion of vegetables to animal protein. My role is to encourage a change in eating habits by offering vegetarian-friendly recipe ideas that defy expectations, and hopefully inspire you to cook and eat more ecologically produced food.
I have to say, there are many challenges to overcome when combining Primal principles with my leaning-towards-vegetarian hedonistic tendencies! I’ve come a long way with Grain-free Scones, Chocolate Cake, Shortbread, Souffléd Cauliflower with Gruyère Cheese Sauce and Meat-Free Cottage Pie, but there are so many classic vegetarian recipes that are seemingly off-limits because they contain potato, pasta, rice, corn, beans and other legumes (*see note below). Which slightly miffs me, because I used to consider traditional hummus and crudités a really healthy snack. Furthermore, my fennel and lemon risotto and vegetable chilli were always comfortingly delicious, and there are still times when I could kill for a buttery baked potato or homemade chips!
Necessity being the mother of invention, this recipe for a chickpea-free Carrot Hummus with Orange and Feta Salad conforms to the ‘no legumes’ rule, but happily places proper-tasting hummus well and truly back on the Primal menu. Inspired by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s carrot hummus in River Cottage Veg Everyday! and Maria Elia’s houmous and feta salad in The Modern Vegetarian, this colourful starter or light lunch is a play on textures and flavours that delivers on every level. Creamy carrot hummus combines with salty feta, juicy oranges, crunchy almonds and tasty, visually delightful leaves, to create an explosion of tastes that holds your interest right up until the last forkful.
I think that this mélange of healthy vegetation would be further enhanced by sitting the whole arrangement on top of some spicy carrot pancakes à la Maria Elia style (Primal recipe still to be devised and tested!) for a gorgeously ‘green’, ethically sound main meal. To my mind, this sustainable ‘veggies come first’ approach to fine dining is the start of the future of food. It is my intention that Primal Plate will help make the transition a truly pleasurable one for Primal orientated carnivores, pescetarians and vegetarians alike.
Carrot Hummus With Orange & Feta Salad (V) (Serves 4)
Ingredients - for the carrot hummus
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
4-5 tablespoons olive oil
1 tsp raw clear honey
500g (1lb 2oz) organic carrots, peeled (prepped weight about 460g/1lb)
Juice of 1 organic lemon
3 tbsp smooth almond butter
2 tbsp raw organic sesame tahini
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Ingredients - for the salad
Bunch of watercress, thick stems removed
1 organic orange, peel and pith removed, cut into segments
25g (1oz) shiso (or any micro) sprouts
25g (1oz) coriander sprouts (or coriander leaf)
12 mint leaves, torn
50g (2oz) alfalfa shoots
25g (1oz) flaked organic almonds
50g (2oz) organic feta cheese, crumbled
Ingredients - for the vinaigrette
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp raw clear honey
3½ tbsp raw cider vinegar
100ml (3½ fl oz) organic olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Instructions - for the carrot hummus
Pre-heat the oven to 200℃ / ℉ / Gas mark 6
In a small dry frying pan over a medium heat, toast the cumin and coriander seeds until they’re fragrant - this only takes about a minute, do not let them scorch! Tip into a pestle and mortar (or use a small bowl and the end of a rolling pin) and grind to a fine-ish powder.
In a large bowl whisk 4 tablespoons of olive oil with the honey and toasted spices.
Cut the carrots into 4-5 cm (about 2”) chunks and add to the dressing. Season with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Tip into a small roasting tin and roast for 35 minutes (turn the carrots over halfway through the cooking time).
Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly. Then scrape everything into a food processor (or use a hand-held blender). Add the lemon juice, the almond butter and tahini and blitz to a smooth puree (you may need to scrape down the sides of the bowl once or twice as you go).
Taste to check the seasoning and texture. If necessary, add a little more lemon juice, olive oil or salt and pepper and blend again to incorporate well. Refrigerate until required.
Instructions - for the vinaigrette
Find a clean recycled glass jar (or plastic food container) with well-fitting lid, add the vinaigrette ingredients to your chosen container in the order listed above.
Secure the lid tightly, then shake the contents vigorously. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
Before serving, shake again then drizzle or spoon the vinaigrette directly from the jar on to your salad as needed (it’s best to do this incrementally, as you want your salad nicely dressed not drowned!)
Instructions - to make the salad and assemble the dish
In a medium sized mixing bowl, loosely combine all the salad ingredients together. Add 1-2 tablespoons of the dressing and gently toss everything together so the salad is evenly coated (I prefer to do this with my hands so I don’t bruise the leaves or break up the individual ingredients too much).
Spoon the hummus onto 4 individual serving plates, and pile the salad evenly on top, making sure you can still see the hummus underneath.
Drizzle a little more of the dressing around the outside of the plate and serve immediately.
The carrot hummus, vinaigrette and toasted almonds can all be prepared well in advance, making this an ideal starter for entertaining.
The hummus will keep refrigerated in an airtight container for up to a week. The vinaigrette will store at room temperature for several days.
The hummus would also make a great sandwich filling (only in Grain-Free Sandwich Bread, of course!) - I’d add grated raw carrot and watercress for a really tasty, wholesome vegan sandwich and probably crumbled feta too, for the rest of us.
Tracking down shiso sprouts and other micro leaves, especially if you live in the sticks, isn’t easy! To find your nearest supplier, go to Westlands and click on ‘Where to get our products’. I got really lucky because I just happened to ask at the counter of a local ‘foodie’ farm shop if they ever stocked such a thing. To my astonishment they had the most fantastic range behind the counter (for local chefs) and they kindly let me have free choice out of about eight different varieties. Thanks Maxeys Farm Shop, I shall be back for more this weekend!
* Whilst peas and green beans are, strictly speaking, legumes, they are okay to eat as part of the Primal lifestyle because they’re eaten when they’re young and fresh - not dried. Naturally lower in lectins and phytates than dried varieties, both peas and green beans are simple to cook (which further reduces/de-activates any toxicity) and are very easily digested. In addition, the carbohydrate content of both fresh peas and green beans is also much lower than that of dried peas and beans.
Carbohydrate 23g Protein 9g - per portion