Lucky-Dip Salad Jars

by Susan Smith in


This is primarily a DIY recipe that comes to the rescue of people who think salad is boring and/or can’t be bothered to cook.

You will need to stretch yourself to make a Basic French Dressing and maybe boil some eggs (only if they take your fancy), but the final eating experience will far surpass your expectations of wading your way through a plateful of bog-standard salad.

Not only are these Lucky-Dip Salad Jars as pretty as a picture (thank you Sarah at Mirror Imaging), conveniently portion controlled (no fighting over a communal salad bowl for the best bits), fun to eat and packed with nutrients - their airtight seals means they can be assembled up to 24 hours ahead and everything will stay just as fresh and perky as it was when first prepared. 

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The key to success is layering a ‘rainbow’ of different, complementary salad ingredients that are shredded or very finely sliced (use a mandolin, if you have one), so that every forkful is a delightfully surprising, light and easy-to-eat, flavour fest.

Ideally packaged for picnics, for taking to the office or when you’re working away from home - I conjured up these Lucky-Dip Salad Jars in anticipation of a long-distance photographic assignment that involved an overnight stay, which would have prevented Sarah and I from eating ‘right’ (low-carb, organic, real food), for more than 24 hours. However, don’t save these perfectly balanced, perfectly dressed, ready-to-go salad jars just for on-the-hoof dining. They’re much too good for that. I now regularly bring them to the table whenever I want to add more plant-based nutritional oomph, colour and interest to everyday family meals.

You can either let your imagination run riot and buy a variety of fresh, salad ingredients to make these Lucky-Dip Salad Jars from scratch, or else ferret around in the bottom of your fridge for inspiration. It doesn’t take too much in the way of vegetables, herbs, salad leaves and other tasty tidbits to fill a 700ml Kilner jar with good-for-you things in contrasting colours, flavours and textures.

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Filling the Kilner jars is more like flower arranging than cooking. Simply take your time to neatly layer your chosen ingredients roughly in the order I’ve listed below and these bright and beautiful Lucky-Dip Salad Jars speak for themselves. 

You’ll discover a ’lucky-dip’ each time you dive deep into your personal salad jar because every forkful you randomly skewer is a different combination of ingredients and flavours. It’s such a novel and moreish way to eat salad, even I don’t remember what I’ve loaded my jars with until I start eating one!

What I do know is that these Lucky-Dip Salad Jars are a convenience food that has all of the pleasure and none of the pain it takes to feed yourself healthy.

Useful tips before you start…

  • You’ll need a 700-750ml, sterilised, clip-top, wide-mouthed, Kilner jar for each person - see Notes below.

  • Make a Basic French Dressing (see recipe below) before you start preparing the rest of your ingredients.

  • Select your ingredients from the suggestions listed and, if at all possible, buy organic to avoid eating chemical residues along with your salad!

  • Let your imagination be the limit of these Lucky-Dip Salad Jars rather than the ingredients I’ve put forward for consideration, which could have gone on ad infinitum! Okay, maybe I can’t resist a few more…hummus, orange/grapefruit segments, sweet peppers, red or white chicory, very finely sliced raw cabbage, toasted seeds (sunflower, flax, pumpkin), smoked mackerel, smoked salmon, sardines, prawns, blanched asparagus, cucumber etc. etc.

  • The approximate amounts given alongside each ingredient are per salad jar, but much depends on how many different ingredients you’ve chosen to use. If you’re using several ingredients of a similar type e.g. grated raw carrots and grated raw beetroot, you’ll probably need to scale back the amounts of each to 50 grams to make a 100 grams in total.

  • Layer your prepared salad ingredients in roughly the order I’ve given below. They’re organised like this for a reason - for example, grated purple beetroot would need to go into the bottom of the jar first so it doesn’t ‘bleed’ into the rest of your ingredients and delicate leafy greens go into the jar last so they don’t get squashed, bruised or soggy.

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Lucky-Dip Salad Jars

Basic French Dressing

Ingredients

1 level tsp Himalayan pink salt or fine sea salt 

1 tsp Organic Dijon mustard 

2 tbsp Freshly squeezed organic lemon juice or cider vinegar

Freshly milled black pepper 

6 tbsp Organic extra virgin olive oil or cold pressed macadamia nut oil 

1 tsp Organic honey or maple syrup or 2-3 drops organic liquid stevia 

Instructions

Put all the ingredients into a screw-topped jar and shake vigorously.

Lucky Dip Salad Jar Ingredients (per jar)

Dressing

  • 2 tbsp Basic French Dressing

Then choose from the following suggestions:

Vegetables

  • 100g Grated purple beetroot 

  • 100g Grated carrots

  • 100g Grated golden beetroot

  • 40g Finely sliced raw ‘button’ or closed cap mushrooms, white or brown

  • 30g Finely sliced raw fennel

  • 30g Finely sliced celery

  • 30g Finely sliced, kohlrabi

  • 30g Finely sliced radishes

Protein

  • 4 x Quail’s eggs, hard boiled or 1 x large hen’s egg, hard boiled and sliced

  • 25g Finely grated mature Cheddar or Parmesan

  • 25g Feta cheese, cut into cubes

  • 50g Tinned tuna, drained and mashed with 1 tbsp mayonnaise, if liked

Fruit

  • ½ tbsp Kalamata or green olives, stoned and slivered

  • ½ Avocado, dressed in 1 tsp lemon or lime juice 

  • 60g Whole cherry tomatoes

Nuts & Seeds

  • 25-30g Pine nuts, or other nuts e.g. almond flakes, macadamias, pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts etc. lightly toasted and roughly chopped, if required

  • 10-15g Pumpkin, sunflower, hemp, sesame seeds etc., lightly toasted

Leafy Greens & Herbs

  • 25g Baby leaf spinach, 

  • 25g Baby red chard

  • 25g Mixed baby salad leaves

  • 15g Rocket

  • 15g Watercress

  • 25g Shredded romaine lettuce

  • 10g Sprouting seeds of your choice - broccoli, clover, mustard, radish, onion, alfalfa etc.

  • 1 tbsp Finely chopped herbs - coriander, mint, dill, parsley, chives etc.

Instructions To Assemble Lucky-Dip Salad Jars

Place 1 tbsp of dressing in the bottom of each jar. 

Start layering up your selected ingredients roughly in the order listed above.

Seal the lid on tight and refrigerate.

When you’re ready to eat, drizzle another 1 tablespoon of dressing on top of the salad, re-seal the jar then tip upside down and shake well.

Dive in with a fork to enjoy!

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Notes

I subsequently discovered the seemingly best-shaped 700ml Tala jars that feature in this blog post were not dishwasher proof, as described on Amazon’s website. You need to make sure that the clips that secure your Kilner jars are stainless steel; the Tala ones corroded and went rusty after just one round in the dishwasher! 

450-500ml Kilner jars would be a better size for children and would still have sufficient space to layer a variety of ingredients that hopefully they’ll want to eat.

As far as possible, when selecting your salad ingredients make the most of each season’s fruits and vegetables and buy organic. This makes sense because it provides your body with what it needs nutritionally at different times of the year.

There’s a bit of guesswork involved in the total amount of ingredients you need to use to fill the jars attractively. Having decided on what ingredients I’m going to use to assemble my jars, I usually eyeball the quantities of each item I need to prep (chop, finely shred, grate etc.), before separately weighing and layering that particular ingredient equally between the number of jars I’m filling. I then prepare, weigh and continue to layer-up the rest of the ingredient in the same way until the jars are full.

Don’t forget to take a fork and a small, tightly-sealed glass jar of Basic French Dressing with you if you intend eating while you’re out and about. 


Grilled Mackerel With Creamy Keto ‘Potato’ Salad & Watercress

by Susan Smith in ,


Today’s blog post is for a complete summer meal that’s easy to prepare when you have a lot on your plate. Including whizzing together a batch of Macadamia Oil Mayo (I always keep a jar of this at-the-ready in my fridge), everything can be brought together in less than half an hour. It’s healthy, its quick, it’s delish! This year, when the first Jersey Royal potatoes came into season, I couldn’t resist making a real potato salad (cold, pre-cooked potatoes are an excellent source of resistant starch) and it actually took me longer to scrape the papery skins off the potatoes than it takes to make this entire meal! Henceforth, I shall live without pesky potatoes!

It’s the labour intensive ‘potato-peeling’ type of cooking chore that’s been fully exploited by food corporations and made their marketing hype so successful. They’ve convinced society that ’fast’ food and ready meals are quicker, cheaper and easier to get on the table. However, I disagree. You can make Grilled Mackerel with Creamy Keto ‘Potato’ Salad & Watercress in less time than it takes to order a takeaway and have it delivered. It’s probably cheaper too. And obviously, better for your health.

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Actually, food corporations don’t cook; they process deadly ingredients sourced from the cheapest, most consistently available form of food, namely genetically engineered crops, grown with toxic chemicals. Do you really believe pesticide laden, genetically engineered, processed food - food that could never be created by nature - isn’t disastrous for human health? Whilst most people crave these edible abominations and see them as desirable ‘convenience’ foods, I can’t think of many things more inconvenient than being dependant on fake food contaminated with toxic chemicals. Processed food is chock-full of refined sugar, chemically altered fats, refined carbohydrates and other processed ingredients poisonous to humans that are a root cause of many food-related diseases including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s.

It’s not just biotech giants, industrial farming, food corporations and other toxic chemical food polluters that assault your body. Doctors have been delivering terrible advice for decades. Instead of focusing on the prevention and reversal of obesity and disease by tackling its underlying cause, which is eating modern foods incompatible with our genes, doctors respond to the body’s cries for help by intervening with drugs or surgery to suppress symptoms. Why the medical establishment hasn’t been sued for actually causing bodily harm beats me!

Of course, they are reluctant to admit their mistake, so it could be a very long time before doctors get behind public health advice telling its citizens to return to eating the natural, unprocessed food that was consumed before obesity and diabetes reached epidemic proportions. The fact that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree was highlighted in a recent BBC1 programme called The Big Crash Diet Experiment. The ‘experiment’ presented itself as an hitherto unknown (at least to doctors), revolutionary treatment for the obesity and diabetes crisis and, if you believe everything you see on TV, the spectacularly successful results really took the doctors by surprise. After all, who knew that a very low calorie diet triggers ketosis, which accelerates weight loss, lowers blood sugar levels and reverses the symptoms of diabetes? Awww, c’mon guys! That would just be me and an entire Primal Health community then!

But still they can’t help themselves. In sharp contrast to the natural, LCHF (ketogenic) whole food diet promoted by Primal Plate, the doctors’ solution was to by-pass any requirement for cooking skills and feed four grossly overweight volunteers highly processed, low-calorie, meal replacement products (a.k.a. The Cambridge Diet)…naturally, under strict medical supervision! They then pronounced themselves the successful innovators of a drug-free advance in modern medicine that could save the NHS millions of pounds. Stop right there! I have never seen a more miserable group of people than the programme’s volunteers, who were made to suffer deprivation and hunger in a ludicrous attempt to limit calorie intake by eating synthetic packaged meal replacements soups and shakes cobbled together in a science lab. This is not my idea of healthcare, nor is it sustainable.

However, if your long-term goal is to get fat and sick, go for it! Last time I looked, products like SlimFast are loaded with chemical thickeners, sugar, artificial sweeteners (e.g. aspartame, maltodextrin and ace-sulfame K), inflammatory vegetable oils (soy and sunflower), carageenan (linked to cancer of the gut), modified maize and soy proteins (genetically modified) and cheap vitamins that are poorly absorbed. 

Here’s a piece of ancestral wisdom based on your genes and human evolution: Cooking nutritionally dense food is where it’s at! If you want to eat well, lose weight and feel great for the rest of your life, you’re going to have to reclaim control over what you’re eating, which means prioritising some time to cooking real, fresh foods. So why has home cooking got such a bad rap since the 1970’s? Because clever advertising duped people into believing that cooking is too hard, too complicated and too time consuming. You can see its effect in society at large (pun intended), there’s an obvious correlation between a preference for eating high carbohydrate, processed food and increasing rates of obesity and chronic diseases.

Notwithstanding the profits-before-people economy at the heart of agriculture, restaurants and fast food industries, we recently decided to eat out and were reminded just how unsatisfying and expensive it can be. In exchange for some promotional photos she’d supplied to a local restaurant, Sarah had been given a £50 voucher that had to be redeemed before the end of June 2018, so it was simply a case of use it or lose it. We each selected a main course off the Early Bird menu, took our Üllo wine purifier to filter our non-organic wine at the table, decided not to negotiate the chorizo part of the dish for something more to our taste, and came home hungry! Total ‘early bird’ price £72.50 + gratuity. That doesn’t seem like good value to me.

Let me compare. Fresh, mackerel fillets, rich in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, take no longer than 4-5 minutes to cook under a hot grill. Make-ahead, keto ‘potato' salad, can be assembled several hours before you want to eat it and takes about 15-20 minutes to make, including boiling the eggs and making a batch of mayo. Opening a packet of watercress adds 30 seconds. Finito!

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Using premium-priced, organic ingredients (you can buy these cheaper at most supermarkets), Grilled Mackerel Fillets with Creamy Keto ‘Potato’ Salad & Watercress, will feed three people, including a good bottle of organic, low sulphite wine for just £24.70 or £8.23 per person. Say what?

How can home cooked food be “too expensive” or “too time consuming” when there are literally dozens of healthy, delicious meals that can be prepared within half an hour for less than the £8 or so it costs to buy a single gin and tonic or decent glass of wine at your local? This is even before you factor-in the future cost of disability and ill-health because you neglected to eat right. The question is whether you think the rewards of sourcing fresh, preferably organic food and preparing your entire meal is worth the effort. If you’re willing to invest the time and money you’re going to be a lot healthier. Being taught how to cook nutritious food that supports your body is what true healthcare is about. It’s people that don’t cook that get into trouble with diseased states.

Whilst ever public health is stuck in the past and resistant to change, you’ll need to pick a team. Food as medicine is not exactly a revolutionary idea, even to doctors, but you will need to decide whether you’re willing to continue on with the botched up, calamitous, health strategies that allopathic medicine, pharmaceutical companies and food industries have subjugated us all to, or whether to take a more do-it-yourself approach by respecting your hunter gatherer genes and choosing food consistent with your biology. Namely, a higher fat diet that doesn’t include poisonous modern foods such as refined sugar, grains and chemically altered fats and dairy. 

I’d like to start a cooking rebellion. The only way to safely stop obesity and other diet-related disease in its tracks is to remove people’s addiction for highly processed food and to replace it with more pleasurable alternatives. In the case of food, nothing is more delicious than a nutrient-dense, primally aligned, high-fat, moderate-protein and properly prepared, low-carbohydrate diet. 

Grilled Mackerel With Creamy Keto ‘Potato’ Salad and Watercress is a good place to start. 

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Grilled Mackerel With Creamy Keto ‘Potato’ Salad & Watercress (Serves 4) 

Ingredients - for Creamy Keto ‘Potato’ Salad

1 medium-large organic cauliflower 

75 g organic sour cream or organic crème fraîche

120 g Macadamia Oil Mayo (see recipe in Notes below)

Himalayan pink salt, to taste

freshly ground organic black pepper, to taste

4 large organic eggs, hard-boiled (see Notes below)

2 large organic celery stalks, any outer stringy parts trimmed off with a peeler, then finely diced

2 tbsp fresh organic dill, finely chopped

fresh organic chives, finely chopped - optional

 

Instructions - to make Creamy Keto ‘Potato’ Salad

Boil a kettle of water. Put the boiling water into the bottom of a steamer.

Prepare the cauliflower by cutting the head (you don't need any stalk) into small bite-size florets.

Place the florets into the steamer basket and steam until the cauliflower is only slightly tender, about 4-6 minutes. Plunge into ice cold water, drain well and set aside.

Peel the eggs and reserve two yolks; dice the remainder and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, make the dressing by whisking together the sour cream and mayonnaise.

Mash the two reserved egg yolks well with the back of a fork, then add to the cream mixture and whisk together until smooth.

Add the cooled cauliflower, diced eggs, celery, and dill to the dressing. Stir to coat. Taste and season with salt and pepper, if you think it needs it.

Garnish with chopped chives immediately before serving cold or at room temperature.

 

Ingredients - for Grilled Mackerel & Watercress

600g sustainably caught, skin-on, fresh mackerel fillets (you need 2 mackerel fillets per person, if there’s any leftover, they freeze well)

Himalayan pink salt

Olive oil, for greasing

100g organic watercress, washed, thick stalks removed

 

Instructions - for Grilled Mackerel

Preheat the grill to Medium-High. 

Line a baking sheet or grill pan with parchment paper or non-stick foil and brush the surface with olive oil.

Dry the mackerel fillets with kitchen paper and season the flesh side with salt.

Lay the mackerel fillets skin side up on the lined baking tray, brush the skin with olive oil and season with salt. 

Grill the fillets for 4 minutes, then if the skin is not already golden brown and crispy, switch the grill to its highest setting and cook for a further 1-2 minutes until it is. 

Serve hot with Creamy Keto ‘Potato’ Salad and a large handful of watercress sprigs. 

 

Notes:

Because your health is under attack from every direction - environmental toxins, ultra-processed foods and GMOs as well as a host of other threats - Primal Plate always features organic ingredients in its recipes. If you can’t find fresh, organic produce, or really can’t afford to buy it, you can still reduce your exposure to pesticides by checking out EWG’s 2018 Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce. It’s recommended that you avoid the Dirty Dozen (virtually impossible when you’re eating out) and only eat non-organic if it’s listed under these Clean-15

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To make Macadamia Oil Mayo:

Ingredients

2 large organic eggs

2½-3 tbsp organic lemon (or lime) juice, freshly squeezed

1 tsp organic Dijon mustard

½ tsp Himalayan pink salt

freshly ground organic black pepper

1-2 drops organic liquid stevia 

200 ml cold pressed macadamia nut oil

50 ml organic extra virgin olive oil

Instructions

Place all the ingredients into a tall, narrow container.

Using a hand-held stick blender, blend everything together until it emulsifies into a pale, creamy mayonnaise. Takes about 30 seconds!

Taste and add a little more lemon/lime juice and seasoning, if liked. N.B. Don’t worry if the mayonnaise seems a little on the runny side when it’s first made. It thickens up to the perfect consistency, when chilled down in a refrigerator. 

Transfer to a glass container and seal with an airtight lid. 

Store in a refrigerator and use within 7 days.

health coach food medic eggs.jpg

 

To steam-boil eggs - 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 10-12 minutes until hard-boiled. 

 

Fat 56g Protein 18g Carbohydrates 8g - per serving

Fat 30g Protein 2g Carbohydrate 0g - per stand-alone serving of Macadamia Oil Mayo

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Smoked Mackerel Tartare

by Susan Smith in ,


When you’re low on time and high on hunger, Smoked Mackerel Tartare is a tasty little number that you can whip up in less than half an hour. Isn’t that just music to your ears?

As a retiree - well, at least from lucrative employment - I still find myself racing against the clock to get things done. Quick and easy meals are increasingly becoming the order of the day and I’m guessing that it’s not just me that’s struggling to stay on top of my life situation. 

Oftentimes, this means that at the end of a busy day I’m frantically searching for last-minute inspiration from my extensive library of cookery books to find those recipes that either meet my criteria for Primal or that can be adjusted to suit. Sometimes I’ll stumble across an “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” recipe that I can bring straight to the table without any fussy whatsoever. 

This one is rich in omega-3 fatty acids that reduce inflammation and may help lower risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and arthritis, as well as being virtually carb-free. Perfect for Primal, Paleo and ketogenic diets, all credit goes to Hugh Fearnly-Whittingstall’s book ‘River Cottage Light & Easy’.

Call me greedy but I have adjusted the quantities slightly upwards. For a main meal, I think you need to allow 1 mackerel fillet and 1 egg per person. To help keep your omega-3 to omega-6 ratio in balance (see Notes below), I also recommend that you make your own healthy 3-Minute Mayonnaise to bind the ingredients together. C’mon peeps, 3 minutes still makes this recipe do-able within 30 minutes! 

For a quick and easy, satisfying lunch or supper, Smoked Mackerel Tartare is wonderful. Simply add crisp salad leaves and Paleo friendly, oven-baked ‘bruschetta’ to balance out its fishy virtues. As well as being a fat-for-fuel lunchbox solution to sustain Sarah and I at Mirror Imaging weddings, it also makes yummy, low-carb hand-me-rounds simply piled into hearts of Little Gem lettuce or chicory leaves to serve at picnics and parties.

Very moreish and made in minutes, I think you’ll find that this recipe is just too good to pass up.

Smoked Mackerel Tartare

Ingredients - for the smoked mackerel tartare

3 smoked mackerel fillets

3 hard-boiled organic eggs, coarsely chopped

4 organic cornichons (or 1 large gherkin), finely chopped

4 tbsp organic 3-Minute Mayonnaise

1 tbsp chopped organic dill or parsley, roughly chopped - plus a little extra to garnish

Squeeze of lemon juice

Freshly ground organic black pepper

 

Ingredients - to make 3-Minute Mayonnaise

2 organic eggs

2½ tbsp organic lemon juice

1 tsp organic Dijon mustard

½ tsp sea salt

a good pinch of organic white pepper

1-2 drops organic liquid stevia

150ml Clearspring Organic Sunflower Frying Oil

100ml organic cold-pressed light olive oil

Ingredients - to serve

Little Gem lettuce, Vegan Paleo Nut & Seed Bread “bruschetta’, organic radishes.

 

Instructions - to make the mackerel tartare

Skin the mackerel and use your fingers to break the fish up into chunky, bite-sized pieces.

Put the mackerel into a bowl with the rest of the ingredients and fold everything together very gently so you don’t break up the ingredients too much. 

Taste the tartare and add a little more black pepper and lemon juice if you think it needs it. N.B. The smoked mackerel usually has enough salt, so you shouldn’t need to add more.

 

Instructions - to make 3-Minute Mayo

Place all the ingredients into a tall, narrow container.

Using a hand-held stick blender, blend everything together until it emulsifies into a pale, creamy mayonnaise. Takes about 30 seconds!

Taste and add a little more lemon juice, sea salt and freshly ground pepper, if liked.

Transfer to a glass container and seal with an airtight lid. Use within 5 days

Instructions - to serve

Place Little Gem lettuce hearts or other crisp salad leaves on to a serving plate or on to individual plates. Intersperse the salad leaves with thinly sliced radishes (extra pretties and peppery crunch!), if using. Pile the mackerel tartare on top of the leaves. 

Sprinkle over the remaining parsley or dill and add another grinding of black pepper, if liked.

Serve with Vegan Paleo Nut & Seed Bread ‘bruschetta’ (see Notes below)

 

Notes

The best smoked mackerel I’ve found for flavour and texture is Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference smoked mackerel. For this recipe, paying a little extra, really does make a difference! 

To make Vegan Paleo Nut & Seed Bread ‘bruschetta’, slice the bread very thinly and brush both sides with olive oil. Put the slices of bread on a baking sheet lined with non-stick foil and bake at 200℃ / 400 ℉ / Gas mark 6 for 12-15 minutes until golden brown. Allow to cool.

I don’t buy shop-bought mayonnaise anymore because it’s made with processed vegetable oils high in polyunsaturated fats, particularly pro-inflammatory omega-6 fats. Dr Mercola comments :

“If you want to increase your overall health and energy level, and prevent health conditions like heart disease, cancer, depression and Alzheimer's, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, ulcerative colitis, and a host of other diseases, one of the most important strategies at your disposal is to increase your intake of omega-3 fats and reduce your intake of processed omega-6 fats.”

  • Omega-6 fats are found in vegetable oils such as rapeseed, corn, sunflower, soybean and some nuts. 

  • Omega-3 fats are found in oily fish such as mackerel, kippers, herring, trout, sardines and wild salmon.

To balance our intake of omegas we should aim to eat more omega-3s and significantly less omega-6s. Unfortunately, most people eat way more omega-6s than they do omega-3s - 10 to 25 times more - so although Smoked Mackerel Tartare helps redress the balance in favour of eating more omega-3s, not so much if you bind it together with mayo that’s loaded with omega-6s! Swapping processed vegetable oils for naturally low in omega-6 organic oils, such as olive or avocado, makes sense. The trouble is I find both olive and avocado oils too overpowering (strong and bitter) to make good mayonnaise and I don’t like using processed ‘mild’ olive oils either. 

This is where I invite you to say hello to Clearspring's Organic Sunflower Frying Oil. It is one of the few cold pressed oils that uses special sunflower seeds that are high in monounsaturated oleic acid (the sort found in olive oil) and low in omega-6. Irrespective of its name, this sunflower oil combined with olive oil makes a delicious, authentic-tasting, mayonnaise that’s so good I could stand on farmer’s markets and sell it! 

N.B. You will need a hand-held stick-blender to successfully make 3-Minute Mayonnaise. 

 

Fat 34g Protein 35g Carbohydrate 2g- per serving of mackerel tartare

Fat 31g Protein 2g Carbohydrate 0g - per serving of 3-Minute Mayonnaise


Spinach, Cherry Tomato & Avocado Salad with Spicy Sicilian Almonds

by Susan Smith in , , ,


Having initially accepted the challenge of featuring delicious, primarily vegetarian, Primal/Paleo recipes on Primal Plate’s blog, I now find myself obsessed with the idea of going one step further. Accordingly, it’s my intention to include many more vegan recipes that can be enjoyed as part of a Primal lifestyle. I’m excited at the prospect. With summer almost upon us, light and easy is the order of the day and it feels entirely appropriate for our meals not to be so dairy dependant. Vegan food eaten in this context, means moving away from Primal and more towards the Paleo diet, which excludes milk, butter, cheese, crème fraîche, cream, ice cream and yogurt.

I am too much of a hedonist to go the whole hog (strictly speaking, Paleo peeps don’t even drink red wine for heaven’s sake!), but I do want to consciously use dairy products less often. Sarah has coined a new phrase for what’s turning out to be a delicious voyage of discovery. She calls it ”Valeo”, which in my view perfectly sums up the logic of eating more healthily without exploiting animals. If there’s one thing that miffs me about the Primal/Paleo diet, it’s the emphasis on eating animal protein.  

Yesterday we enjoyed a valeo meal of soup and salad…a Roasted Beet Borscht with Horseradish Cream (recipe coming soon) and this amazingly tasty, healthful Spinach, Cherry Tomato and Avocado Salad. Vivid colours and packed with goodness, eating valeo is light years away from the high-carb pasta, rice, bread, potato and legumes that most vegetarians and vegans rely on. 

As I’m a complete novice entering the world of veganism, I’m sailing in relatively unchartered waters. Therefore, I make no apology for seeking out the best vegan recipes from other authors that obviously don’t contain meat, fish, eggs or dairy as well as all the Primal ‘no-no' foods such as grains, potatoes, legumes, processed soy and fats etc. It’s a tall order! Nevertheless, this Spinach, Cherry Tomato and Avocado Salad with Spicy Sicilian Almonds, which I’ve borrowed from Annie Bell’s book Gorgeous Greens, immediately hit the culinary jackpot by ticking all the aforementioned boxes. Sod’s law that it’s been Primal Plate’s most popular posting on Instagram to date! 

Clearly this is not just a dish for Paleos or Vegans but also for meat-free Mondays, dairy free dieters and anyone that finds themselves somewhere in-between (me!). Full of punchy flavours, this hearty salad is a wake-up call for the senses that can be on the table in less than 30 minutes.  

Spinach, Cherry Tomato & Avocado Salad with Spicy Sicilian Almonds (serves 4)

Ingredients - for the nuts

100g organic whole, blanched (skinned) almonds

1 tbsp organic extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp organic Tamari

1 tsp, organic fresh thyme leaves

¼-½ tsp organic chilli pepper 

 

Ingredients - for the salad

2 organic avocados

125g organic baby spinach leaves, or torn young spinach leaves

2 tbsp organic extra virgin olive oil

a good squeeze of organic lemon juice

200g organic cherry tomatoes, halved

a small handful of organic fresh chives, finely chopped

sea salt (my favourite for serving at the table is fine Pu‘uwai Deep Ocean Hawaiian Sea Salt)

Instructions - for the nuts

Pre-heat the oven to 170℃ / 325℉ / Gas mark 3

Toss the almonds in a bowl with the olive oil and tamari, then toss in the thyme, scatter over the cayenne pepper and toss again.

Tip the nuts into a small roasting tin or baking tray and spread them out into a single layer. 

Toast in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until deep golden and crisp. 

Transfer the nuts to a plate lined with a paper towel and leave to cool.

 

Instructions - for the salad

Remove the avocados from the stone by cutting in two halves and picking the stone out. 

Peel the skin off the avocado halves, then slice each half into four long segments (8 segments per avocado).

Toss the spinach in a large bowl with the olive oil and lemon juice, then carefully fold in the halved cherry tomatoes and chopped chives.

Pile the salad on to four individual plates and scatter over the spiced nuts.

Serve straight away, leaving each diner to season their own salad with sea salt. 

 

Notes

Impossible to resist, the spicy, piquant almonds make a superb stand-alone snack. I chose premium, organic, ready-skinned almonds from sunny Sicily for their larger size and superior creamy, sweet taste but any raw, organic, blanched almonds are fine.

Readers will notice that I always create Primal Plate recipes from organic ingredients. For your health and wellbeing, it’s extremely important you do likewise. Many nuts have a high oil content, which means that they easily absorb pesticides. It is always best to purchase organic. For more information read why you need to buy organic nuts and seeds.

 

Carbohydrate 15g Protein 8g - per serving


Warm Salad Of Root Veg With Cheese & Pine Nuts

by Susan Smith in , , , ,


In this first week of 2016 I’m not in the mood for cooking. I suppose my cook’s laziness is a sort of counterbalance to the flurry of Primal festive food creativity that fully occupied my mind, my time and my kitchen for the past six weeks. Now minimalist meals seem infinitely more appealing. Since Primal Pronto is currently where it’s at, a salad seems just right. 

Nothing could be simpler to prepare (✓) or more seasonal (✓) than this Warm Salad of Root Veg with Cheese & Pine Nuts. Furthermore, the remnants of my Christmas food shopping frenzy meant I didn’t have to dig too deep in my fridge and store cupboard to find the ingredients. My ‘in with the new’ approach to getting dinner on the table ‘pronto’ had this delicious, really healthy plateful prepped, cooked and served within 45 minutes of its conception. Light but surprisingly satisfying, this recipe is such a great combination of flavours and textures that I think it belies being called salad!

Until recently, my culinary interest in beetroot has been a tad conflicted. On the one hand, I love beetroot’s ruby-purplish hue and its gentle, sweet, earthiness. On the other, it has an intimidating reputation for bleeding over everything and for taking anything up to 1-2 hours to cook! In this recipe beetroot redeems itself. Cut into wedges and roasted with other winter roots, it is a game changer. It cooks quickly, stains to advantage - makes this salad look so vibrantly pretty - and it’s dense sweetness provides the perfect foil to salty goat’s and sheep’s milk cheeses. 

Sometimes the simplest things are the best! 

Warm Salad of Root Veg with Cheese & Pine Nuts (Serves 2)

Ingredients

1 fennel bulb, cut in half lengthways and sliced

1 large carrot, cut on the slant into chunks

1 large beetroot, peeled and cut into wedges

1 organic sweet potato

4 shallots, halved (or a medium red onion, cut into eights)

2 tbsp olive oil

sea salt

freshly ground black pepper

100g semi-hard sheep’s or goat’s cheese (I used Parlick Fell)

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar (I used Sainsbury’s Giacobazzi Aged Balsamic Vinegar)

25g pine nuts, toasted

2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped


Instructions

Pre-heat the oven to 200℃/180℃ fan-assisted / 400℉ / Gas mark 6

Pile all the vegetables into a large bowl, add the olive oil and season. Tip into a large roasting tin, making sure the all vegetables are sitting in a single layer, and cook for 25 minutes, turning the vegetables over halfway through the cooking time.

Whilst the vegetable are roasting, toast the pine nuts, crumble the cheese and chop the parsley. Cover and set aside.

Take the roasted veg out of the oven and add the balsamic vinegar. Stir to coat the vegetables evenly and then put back in the oven for a further 10 minutes.

Turn out onto 2 warmed plates and top with the cheese, the pine nuts and the chopped parsley - in that order.

Drizzle a little more of the balsamic vinegar around the edge of the plates and serve immediately.


Notes

If you’re cooking for four, double-up the recipe and use two roasting tins/trays - swapping them over half-way through the cooking times. It’s important to roast the vegetables in a single layer - if you pile them on top of each other they’re much more likely to steam rather than roast.

Real balsamic vinegar is absolutely essential to the success of this recipe so beware of imitations! Aged balsamic vinegar from Modena, Italy costs a small fortune. So, if you’ve paid less than you’d pay for a decent bottle of wine (£12 - £60), you’ve likely purchased cheap wine vinegar with colour added! Look at the ingredients list for the words “grape must”, “aged grape must,” “Mosto d'Uva" or “DOC. 

The real stuff is a deliciously sticky, dark brown, sweetly-sour, glossy syrup that always adds a certain ‘je ne sais quoi' when used as a marinade or condiment to other fine foods. If you buy it, you can use it for bread dipping (grain-free, of course!), adding to sauces, drizzling over cooked foods, brushing onto vegetables, meat, fish or poultry before grilling or roasting, or even as a perfect pairing with fresh strawberries! It’s well worth the expense. 


Carbohydrate 40g Protein 17g - per serving


Griddled Asparagus & Tomato with Pecorino with Parmesan Crusted Chicken / Twice-Baked Cheese Soufflés

by Susan Smith in , , , , , , ,


There’s a debate going on in our household. A sort of ‘Daddy or Chips?’ to-ing and fro-ing. Sarah thinks I should feature more meat recipes on Primal Plate’s blog and I’m not finding any reason to do so. In fact, the opposite is true - I am not interested in promoting meat consumption.

Mass cruelty is going on, and millions of factory-farmed chickens, pigs and cows are suffering the consequences, without any encouragement from me. Most people don’t want to know how the food they eat arrives on their plate, because if they become fully aware of the heartrending, unmerciful, intense farming methods, kept ‘under wraps’ by agribusiness and food advertising agencies, natural empathy will force them to change their eating habits, or at least make them willing to pay the extra price for compassionately and ethically reared farm animals. I have a solution. If you think you can’t afford to buy organic, free-range, grass-fed meat, stop eating meat! Or, if you must eat it, save it for special occasions when you are happy to pay a little more for the privilege.

So now my intention is clear, I can indulge Sarah and look to those people who like to draw attention to the fact that meat is most often missing on Primal Plate’s blog. Today’s post should make the point admirably. 

Griddled Asparagus & Tomato with Pecorino is a fresh, light-bite that’s been slightly modified from an original Waitrose recipe. More than a cold salad but not quite a hot dinner, this dish captures all the flavours of summer with the minimum of fuss. With the exception of griddling the asparagus spears (which only takes about 6-8 minutes) everything else can be pre-prepared and quickly assembled when you’re ready to eat. 

It’s delicious with Parmesan Crusted Chicken (buy your chicken here) assuming you’ve taken on board the importance of provenance - but here’s the thing, it’s twice as good (and a lot more convenient to serve) teamed with Twice-Baked Cheese Soufflés (recipe adapted from Rose Elliot’s book Vegetarian Four Seasons).

This is my sort of food - tasty soft pillows of all-protein goodness, topped with golden, crunchy, cheese - and no animal suffering in the making thereof! When it comes to deciding which is more enticing to eat, I think the photographs here say it for me!

Still, I’ve included the recipes for both chicken and soufflés, so you have the choice. However, I entreat you to please stop supporting the horrors of intensive animal farming by paying the extra money for free-range, outdoor bred, organic chicken - without exception. Thank you.

Griddled Asparagus & Tomato with Pecorino (V - see note below) (Serves 2-4)

Ingredients

250g tomatoes, halved (I used Pome dei Moro)

500g asparagus, trimmed

Fast and easy vinaigrette

30g pine nuts, toasted

25g pack fresh basil, shredded if leaves are large, or left whole if small

30g Pecorino, Parmesan or Twineham Grange cheese, finely grated

 

Instructions

Pre-heat the oven to 150 ℃ / 300℉ / Gas mark 3

Arrange tomato halves in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with non-stick baking parchment . Cook in the pre-heated oven for up to 1 hour. N.B. Because oven temperatures can vary considerably, check the tomatoes progress after 45 minutes - they should be semi-collapsed, semi-dried and slightly caramelised when they’re done - definitely not scorched! Remove from the oven and set aside.

Gently toast pine nuts in a small dry frying pan over a low heat until golden - watch like a hawk, don’t let them burn!

Make the fast and easy vinaigrette. Set aside.

Wash asparagus, drain and dry. Snap off the bottom of the spears and peel the lower third with a potato peeler. Drizzle the prepared asparagus with olive oil, coating them evenly, then season with salt and pepper and set aside. 

Just before you’re ready to serve, heat a griddle pan to hot. Cook the asparagus in a single layer until lightly charred and tender (takes about 5-8 minutes)

Arrange the cooked asparagus on a large serving plate, scatter with the tomatoes. Drizzle generously with the vinaigrette then top with pine nuts, shredded basil leaves and grated cheese…in that order.

Parmesan Crusted Chicken (Serves 2) 

2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts 

1 egg white, lightly beaten

60g Parmesan cheese, finely grated

A generous grinding of freshly ground black pepper

1 tbsp Clearspring organic sunflower frying oil

 

Instructions

Pre-heat the oven to 200℃. 

Combine freshly ground black pepper with grated Parmesan.

Dip each chicken fillet into the beaten egg white and then firmly press the chicken into the combined Parmesan and black pepper.

Heat the oil in a non-stick oven-proof frying pan over a medium heat. When it is hot, cook the chicken for 3-4 minutes on each side until golden brown. Do not be tempted to move the chicken around the pan - it will be crispier if you leave it alone. 

Put the frying pan into the pre-heated oven for a further 8-10 minutes until cooked through. N.B. if you’re not sure if it’s completely cooked, cut through the middle of one of the chicken fillets with a sharp knife and check.

Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 3 minutes before serving. 

 

Twice-Baked Cheese Soufflés (V) (Makes 8 soufflés - serves 4 for a main course, 8 as a starter) 

Ingredients

Butter for greasing 

8 tbsp ready-grated Parmesan cheese

225g full fat cream cheese (I used Longley Farm)

4 large egg yolks, lightly beaten

150g Gruyere cheese, finely grated

5 large egg whites

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

 

Instructions

Pre-heat the oven to 180℃ / 350℉ / Gas mark 4. Boil a kettle of water.

Generously grease 8 ramekin dishes, then sprinkle the insides with 4 tablespoons of the ready-grated Parmesan.

Put the cream cheese into a large bowl and mash with a fork until it’s smooth. Gradually mix in the egg yolks, then add half the grated Gruyere. Season with sea salt and black pepper. 

In a separate bowl whisk the egg whites with a clean grease-free whisk (preferably electric if you’re not feeling energetic) until they stand in soft peaks.

Stir one tablespoon of the whisked egg whites into the egg yolk mixture to loosen it, then using a metal tablespoon gently fold in the rest of the egg whites.

Spoon the mixture into the ramekins to come level with the top, but don’t pile it up any higher.

Stand the filled ramekins in a roasting tin, pour the boiling water round to come halfway up the sides and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until they are risen and set.

Remove from the oven and allow to get cold - they’ll sink a bit. Loosen the edges and turn them out. It’s easiest to turn them out into the palm of one hand, then transfer them to an ovenproof dish.

Sprinkle with the remaining Gruyere cheese, then with the rest of the Parmesan cheese. 

They can now wait until you’re ready to bake them. Then, pre-heat the oven to 200℃ / 425℉ / Gas mark 7.

Bake them for 15-20 minutes or until they are puffed up and golden brown.

Serve immediately.

Notes

It’s impossible to make Pecorino or Parmesan cheese without using animal rennet, so they are not suitable for vegetarians. Twineham Grange cheese is made with a vegetarian rennet in place of the animal rennet and is the only cheese of its type to be Vegetarian Society Approved. For more information click here.

Twice-baked cheese soufflés are excellent for a special brunch served alongside slices of wild smoked salmon and accompanied by a glass of freshly squeezed orange and pink grapefruit juice. They can even be made and frozen in their dish, ready to be quickly defrosted and baked.  

The cooking times for chicken breast fillets depend on their size and thickness so I have allowed some latitude in my timings. Try to ensure that both fillets are the same weight so you’re not juggling around with different timings for each. Ultimately, you have to use your discretion but, if in doubt, nothing will spoil if you cut one open, just to make sure it’s nicely cooked all the way through.

 

Carbohydrate 6g Protein 8g - per serving of Griddled Asparagus & Tomato with Pecorino/Twineham Grange cheese

Carbohydrate 0g Protein 44g - per serving of Parmesan Crusted Chicken

Carbohydrate 2g Protein 28g - per main course serving of 2x individual Twice-Baked Cheese Soufflés (1g carbohydrate 14g protein - per soufflé)


Carrot Hummus With Orange & Feta Salad

by Susan Smith in , , , ,


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.  

 

Notes:

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


Classic Prawn Cocktail

by Susan Smith in , , , ,


I think I was lucky to have lived my teenage years in the swinging sixties. For me, it was a most exciting ‘happening’ time to be alive. Everything was in a state flux and turmoil. Fashion - forget the mini skirt - Sarah listened in disbelief the other day when I told her that topless dresses went mainstream! Music - ‘Love Me Do’ took the world (and me), by storm. The pill (Yipee!), women’s liberation (what the heck happened to that as a concept?) and not least, the sexual revolution.  

It all just freaked my poor dad out, and there were several times when he threatened to make me a Ward of Court! Actually, I was a rebel, but in a good cause! We both survived the tsunami-style disruption and I quickly gained my freedom and learned to stand on my own two feet. To my credit (or perhaps my Dad’s), I was never promiscuous or took drugs.  

Other fond memories of the 1960s are mainly food related. Back then, asking friends around for dinner was the norm and almost every Saturday night I was hosting a dinner party. Served alongside a Steak Diane, Beef Wellington, Duck a l’Orange or Coq au Vin, the Prawn Cocktail and a bottle of Mateus Rosé somehow epitomised the dizzy pink heights of our culinary sophistication!

It’s good to reminisce and, since I am so reminded, I thought that I would revive the ubiquitous prawn cocktail as a classic retro introduction to last Sunday’s lunch. It was Gary Rhodes that said “In my opinion, delicious food is created when you get the very best ingredients you can find and do as little to them as possible” No more is this so than when you’re trying to locate decent-tasting prawns - is it only me that thinks farmed Asian king prawns taste of absolutely nothing? 

But, besides flavour, there are even more important considerations - facts that will (or should) make you sit up and take notice. Please take the time to read the article The VERY Unsavoury Truth About Prawn Cocktail (yuk!) and watch Revealed: Asian Slave Labour Producing Prawns for Supermarkets in US, UK. Then decide…

As with today’s food industry in general, ethically and sustainably sourced prawns are increasingly difficult to come by. And unfortunately, that means my ‘Is it okay to eat?’ list seems to be being shrinking by the day! Whilst this is one more good cause to carry around inside my head (visit Environmental Justice Foundation), how much more ‘diddle, swindle and plunder’ involving torture, slavery, the degradation of the oceans, the environment and your health can you tolerate? In this instance, only CP Foods, supermarket shareholders and a handful of corrupt slave drivers profit. My hope is that the Information Age and ‘people power’ will soon put an end to it.

For now, I’ve done my homework and opted for MSC certified Marks & Spencer extra large cooked Greenland prawns for this recipe. Although I gasped at the price (£7 for 350g bag), I was rewarded with sweet, nutty prawns that tasted just like they used to. With the addition of diced avocado, a generous squeeze of lemon and the crunch of some finely chopped celery, this classic starter is made even better. I think it looks fresher and eats lighter than a typical 1960s prawn cocktail, which as I remember it, all too often sank beneath the weight of an over-zealous smothering of Marie Rose sauce!

However, properly made with quality ingredients this quick and delicious little salad is perfect for a spring or summer lunchtime starter.

Classic Prawn Cocktail (Serves 4)

Ingredients 

350g frozen cooked cold water prawns, defrosted

6 tablespoons good quality mayonnaise - preferably homemade

2 tablespoons organic tomato ketchup (I used Mr Organic)

2 organic little gem lettuce hearts, finely sliced

2 sticks of celery, finely chopped

1 avocado, finely diced

2 tbsp of lemon juice

Cayenne pepper

Slim bunch of chives, finely chopped - to serve. I actually used celery micro leaves instead - simply because I had them in the fridge and they look so cheffy!

 

Instructions:

Mix together the mayonnaise, tomato ketchup and prawns in a bowl. Stir in the chopped celery and season with cayenne.

Halve the avocado, remove the stone, then peel. Chop into small dice, then toss in lemon juice to stop it discolouring. Add half of the avocado dice to the prawn mixture and stir in lightly.

Shred the lettuce finely and transfer to 4 glasses or serving plates. Divide the prawn mixture equally between them, piling it on top of the lettuce but leaving some of the greenery on show.

Spoon the remaining avocado on top and around, garnish with chopped chives and serve immediately.

 

Notes:

If you want large raw ‘king’ prawns for cooking, look out for organic or Madagascan tiger prawns. The only country from which you can currently buy certified organic tiger prawns is Ecuador. They are stocked by Waitrose.

The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) label is also a sign that prawns have been farmed sustainably. 

 

Carbohydrate 4g Protein 13g


Simply Salad

by Susan Smith in , , , ,


I’ve heard that professional chefs can always tell the calibre of a prospective new member of their brigade by getting them to cook scrambled eggs. Personally, I feel that putting together a nicely dressed bowl of fresh salad leaves might reveal a whole lot more.

It’s no use pretending that lifeless, pre-washed salad leaves (often rinsed in a chlorine wash and then handled by multiple pairs of hands and preserved with a blast of gas before being bagged!) or the familiar shrink-wrapped iceberg lettuce is going to cut it, if you want to make a decent salad.

Nothing compares to truly fresh salad leaves, so start with the freshest greens you can find, preferably organically grown. Find whole lettuce that has a ‘just-picked’ appearance such as romaine or little gem, or a head of leaves like soft, tender English lettuce or green, red, bronze oak leaf lettuce.

Build your salad from there by adding a variety of other salad greens. Perhaps some mild tender mâche (lambs lettuce), rocket, bright peppery watercress (ideally bought by the bunch) or in winter, chicories. Add to these some young sweet ‘living’ leaves, pea shoots, fresh growing herbs or mustard and cress.

Packed with essential nutrients and virtually carb-free, a generous daily portion of raw healthy salad greens is the most gratifying accompaniment to any meal. In my view, a perfect tossed green salad that’s well balanced and well dressed is also the hallmark of a great cook.

Simply Salad (V)

Ingredients - Salad

This isn’t so much of a recipe with pre-determined ingredients as it is a general guide to salad making. Primarily let the season, what's looking at it’s best and what you fancy determine your choice. If you’re willing to shop and cook in a way that nourishes your body and satisfies your soul, the possibilities are endless!

The only proviso is that for a tossed green salad, keep it simple - it really doesn’t need anything more than a well-balanced classic French Dressing.

Alternatively, you can create your own ‘house’ salad by adding a riotous colour of different fruits and vegetables, together with your favourite dressing.

When you’re trying to judge portion sizes, allow a large rounded handful of green leaves per person (my hands are small, so it’s more like both hands cupped together!)

The salad pictured here was a mixture of Romaine and Little Gem lettuce hearts, wafer thin slices of fennel, wild rocket, watercress, red and white Belgian chicories, thinly sliced red and yellow peppers, Sundream vine tomatoes, flat leaf parsley and avocado.

Ingredients - For the French dressing

120ml (4½ fl oz) olive oil (I used half organic cold pressed olive oil and half organic cold pressed avocado oil)

40ml (1 ½ fl oz) organic raw apple cider vinegar

1 tsp sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1 tsp clear ‘runny’ raw organic honey, or maple syrup

 

Instructions

First make the vinaigrette dressing. Mix the vinegar, sea salt, pepper, honey and mustard together in a medium sized bowl and give it a good whisk. Add the oil a small dash at a time, whisking well between each addition. Continue adding the oil until it is all amalgamated into vinaigrette. Check and adjust the seasoning if necessary (if it tastes a little tart, a single drop of liquid Stevia will help compensate).

Remove the base of the stalk and any roots attached to your lettuce together with any tough, yellowing or damaged outside leaves. If the leaves are small, leave them whole. Larger leaves should be torn along their central rib into bite-sized pieces. Remove any thick stalks from the likes of fresh watercress or spinach.

Many leafy salad greens are grown in sandy soil so to avoid grit ending up in your salad, you’ll need to wash them well. Fill a sink or large soaking bowl full of cold water then gently submerge and swish the leaves around in the water to dislodge any dirt. Handle your leaves lightly, if they get bent small cracks on the surface will cause them to wilt.

When lifting them out of the sink or soaking bowl, don’t just grab them. Spread your hands out underneath the leaves in the water and gently lift them out using your loosely splayed fingers to support them. Lay them out on a clean tea towel and gently pat dry with paper towels.

A salad spinner makes light work of washing and drying. I bought the older model of the iconic OXO Good Grips salad spinner several years ago and it’s an invaluable kitchen-aid that spin dries salad leaves and herbs in seconds without bruising them. First, fill the bowl of the spinner with cold water and submerge the leaves in the spinner basket into the water. Gently swish around in the water to allow any sand to drop through the basket into the bottom of the bowl. Repeat several times with fresh clean water until there’s no sand left in the bottom of the bowl. Pour away the last batch of water then simply put spinner lid on and pump several times to dry. Don’t go mad with the spinning action or you might crush the leaves. Just give it a couple of good spins, then rearrange the leaves, drain the bowl and spin again. Don’t over-fill the spinner basket either, it’s best to spin the leaves in batches rather than cram too much in.

Arrange the dry leaves prettily in a bowl (much larger than you think you need if you intend to dress your salad) together with any other salad ingredients you’re using  Cover and keep chilled until you’re ready to serve.

Just before you want to serve your salad, add a few tablespoons of your chosen dressing to the bowl then gently turn the salad over and around with your hands (you can use a couple of large spoons, if you prefer) until everything is evenly and lightly coated in the dressing. Serve immediately.

Notes

Don't overdo the dressing on your salad. You want just enough vinaigrette to lightly and evenly coat the leaves rather than drown them out - too much dressing will simply make them go unpleasantly soggy.


Grilled Goats Cheese & Beetroot Salad

by Susan Smith in , , , ,


My first awakening to Chèvre Blanc goat’s cheeses’ melting, bubbly, golden goodness dates back to the early 1990’s, when we discovered a brilliant bustling French brasserie in Covent Garden called Le Palais Du Jardin (now closed). At the time, they served a salad of this fresh-tasting meltingly soft cheese with slices of poached pear and a balsamic dressing. 

The lively tang of goat's cheese served hot from the grill works equally well here with the earthy sweetness of beetroot, the peppery freshness of rocket (or watercress) and the piquancy of a simple vinaigrette. The whole dish coming together to great effect with the addition of some freshly chopped chives. I really like the contrast between the warm richness of cheese and cool vegetables.

The pink beetroot makes this salad as pretty as it is inviting. Since the 90’s, toasted goat’s cheese has become an enduring favourite for both vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike. We had it today for a light lunch, but I also like to serve it as a starter to impress hungry dinner guests, which it always does! 

Grilled Goats Cheese & Beetroot Salad (V) (Serves 4)

Ingredients - For the salad

4 x 100g (3½ oz) Chèvre Blanc goat’s cheese (I like Waitrose’s Mild Chèvre Blanc)  

250g (9oz) ready-cooked organic beetroot, without vinegar

70g (2½oz) bag of rocket, washed and picked over

 

Ingredients - For the vinaigrette dressing

120ml (4½ fl oz) olive oil (I used half organic cold pressed olive oil and half organic cold pressed avocado oil)

40ml (1 ½ fl oz) organic raw apple cider vinegar

1 tsp sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1 tsp clear ‘runny’ raw organic honey, or maple syrup

1 tbsp fresh chives, chopped  

 

Instructions

Pre-heat the grill to high. 

First make the vinaigrette dressing. Mix the vinegar, sea salt, pepper, honey and mustard together in a medium sized bowl and give it a good whisk. Add the oil a small dash at a time, whisking well between each addition. Continue adding the oil until it is all amalgamated into vinaigrette. Check and adjust the seasoning if necessary (if it tastes a little tart, a single drop of liquid Stevia will help compensate). Alternatively, make my Fast & Easy Vinaigrette and shake in a lidded container.

Set aside 6 tablespoons of the vinaigrette dressing until you’re ready to serve the salad.

Thinly slice the beetroot (a mandoline slicer gives the quickest and neatest result).

Lay the beetroot slices so they overlap each other to form a circle in the centre of four plates. Drizzle a teaspoon of vinaigrette over each beetroot circle - keeping the plate clean. 

Line a baking tray or your wire grill rack with some non-stick foil. Place the goats' cheese rounds onto a baking sheet and place under the grill (about 3-4 inches from the heat) for 4-5 minutes, or until the cheese has melted and turning golden brown.

Whilst the goat’s cheese is grilling, lightly dress the rocket leaves in a tablespoon of vinaigrette in a medium bowl. Divide the dressed salad leaves between the four plates piling it up neatly on top of the beetroot.

When the cheese is ready, place one in the middle of each plate on top of the dressed leaves.

Add the chives to the remainder of the dressing and drizzle around the outside of each plate.

 

Notes:

For this recipe, you require slices of Chèvre Blanc goat’s cheese about 2.5 - 3cm thickness, rind-on, cut from a log. 

Keep the goat’s cheese rounds refrigerated in their original wrapping until you’re ready to grill them. You do not want them to disintegrate into a messy ‘pool’ before they’ve had chance to brown!

I’ve used the classic 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar for this vinaigrette but you can adjust amounts according to your taste. If the finished vinaigrette tastes too tart, try adding more oil (or a drop of liquid Stevia); if it tastes too greasy, add a little more vinegar (or lemon juice). As an alternative to hand-whisked french dressing, make a vinaigrette by putting all the ingredients into a lidded jar and then shake the whole lot vigorously together until they’re combined, adding the chives afterwards. See my recipe for Fast & Easy Vinaigrette.

Store the unused vinaigrette in a lidded container for future use. It will happily keep at room temperature for several days without spoiling, although it will eventually separate - in this case, just re-whisk or give it a good shake before using.

 

Carbohydrate 7g Protein 21g - per serving