Poached Pears with Butterscotch Sauce and Almond Shortcakes

by Susan Smith in , ,


Pear and almond is a classy coupling, which is elevated to even greater levels of sophistication when combined with the flavours of toffee and butterscotch. Today’s recipe for Poached Pears with Butterscotch Sauce and Almond Shortcakes is the perfect make-ahead dessert for an elegant dinner party. Right on cue, it made a fantastic finale to our New Year’s Eve dinner party celebrations last night. Hello there 2016!

Pears, butterscotch, shortcake biscuits…it all sounds gloriously indulgent and a bit Fatty Arbuckle doesn’t it? However, as with all Primal Plate recipes, this dessert remains true to the healthy premise of no grains and no added sugar. The joy of eating Primal is that once you’ve reached your target weight (easily achievable it you stick to no more than 50 to 100 grams of healthy carbs each day), occasional indulgences won’t make the blindest bit of difference. No more wodgy, podgy or painful sensations from eating the wrong food, nor the post Christmas angst of feeling fat. Brilliant! The trick is to keep moving (a daily 2-3 mile walk in the fresh air should do it) and to not wander across the 150 grams of healthy carbs per day limit, which still allows you plenty of scope for sweet treats. 

Real food, sustainability and kindliness to all living creatures and the environment is my inspiration for writing this Primal Plate food blog. I hope that in 2016 more people will appreciate the benefits of a low-carb, low sugar, no grain, primarily vegetarian diet so that not only can we renew our own health and vitality but also be kind and mindful enough to allow this beautiful world in which we live the same privilege and freedom.

Wishing everyone a peaceful, healthy and Happy New Year.

Vanilla Poached Pears with Butterscotch Sauce and Almond Shortcakes (Serves 4)

Ingredients - for the poached pears

300ml filtered water

125g Sukrin:1 granulated stevia sweetener

rind of ½ organic lemon

1 dsp pure vanilla extract (I used Ndali)

4 firm, ripe pears (I used Williams)

Bay leaves, to decorate - optional

 

Ingredients - for the butterscotch sauce

160ml coconut cream

6 Medjool dates

25g raw cashew nut butter

1 tbsp pure vanilla extract (I used Ndali)

1 dsp brandy - optional

 

Ingredients - for the almond shortcakes

100g organic butter

200g organic ground almonds

60g organic tiger nut flour

50g Sukrin Gold

50g organic flaked almonds, lightly toasted            

1 tsp baking powder                

½ tsp sea salt

1 dsp pure vanilla extract (I used Ndali)

 

Instructions - to make poached pears

First, check the dimensions of your saucepan to make sure that it is the right size for the pears to fit snugly inside.

Bring the water, Sukrin icing sugar, lemon peel and maple syrup up to the boil then reduce the heat under the pan to a very low simmer.

Peel the pears. Leave them whole with their stalks intact, immediately placing each one into the syrup - turning it to coat - before continuing with the rest. 

Cook the pears with the pan lid on for 20 to 30 minutes or until they’re soft to the point of a skewer or sharp knife. 

Take the pan off the heat and allow the pears to cool in the syrup. When cold, store covered in a refrigerator until needed.

 

Instructions - to make butterscotch sauce

Remove the stones from the dates and roughly chop. Place in a high powered blender with the remaining ingredients (in the order as listed in ‘ingredients’) and process until smooth.

Serve with poached pears and almond shortcakes

Can be stored in the fridge for up to a week.

 

Instructions - to make almond shortcakes

Pre heat the oven to 130℃ (fan) / 150℃ / 300℉ / Gas mark 2

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over a low heat. Allow to cool for a few minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl combine ground almonds, tiger nut flour, Sukrin Gold, baking soda, sea salt and flaked almonds.

Using a fork, stir in the cooled melted butter and vanilla essence to bring everything loosely together - then roll up your sleeves and with your hands squash the mixture into a ball of dough - it is a bit sticky and crumbly but don't be worried, be determined! 

Tip the dough onto a large piece of non-stick baking parchment. Place a second piece of baking parchment on top then flatten the dough out a little bit with your hands. 

Use a rolling pin to roll the dough out to about 6 to 8mm (¼ to ½ inch thick). 

Use a 7.5 cm (3 inch) plain cutter to cut out the biscuits. Once you are only left with scraps from the cutouts, bring the pieces together to create a ball, then roll it out again to the same thickness and continue cutting the biscuits out.

Place the biscuits onto a lined baking sheet, about one inch apart. Bake for 35-40 minutes until golden.

Cool on the baking tray for 5 minutes, then transfer the biscuits to a wire rack to cool completely. 

These shortcake biscuits will keep for up to a week in an airtight container.

 

Notes

The poached pears will keep for up to 5 days in a covered container in the refrigerator.

I love the intense toffee flavour of the Butterscotch Sauce and, when chilled, it's the perfect consistency for piping around the pears. However, if you want a simpler presentation, it can also be formed into elegant looking quenelles (oval scoops of cream formed between two dessert spoons) and served alongside the pears. Alternatively, if you're okay with diluting the butterscotch flavour, thin the sauce down with a little milk, whipping cream or even water until a pouring consistency is achieved, then spoon over or around the pears.

A list of suppliers for Sukrin sweeteners and grain-free flours can be found on Sukrin’s Home page

 

Carbohydrate 20g Protein 1g - per serving of butterscotch sauce

Carbohydrate 15g Protein 0g - per pear

Carbohydrate 6g Protein 4g - per shortcake biscuit


Red Pepper Rolls with Goat’s Cheese

by Susan Smith in , ,


Make a statement with this bright red and green Christmas Day starter of Red Pepper Rolls With Goat’s Cheese that looks like Christmas on a plate! Tasty and nutrient dense, I think the red pepper rolls are a luxed-up vegetarian version of smoked salmon! Though brought together with a goat’s cheese filling, a fresh tomato vinaigrette, basil pesto and watercress, I suspect this fresh-tasting, light introduction to the main event will do you more good!

Packed with the great flavours of Provence, these delicious red pepper rolls seem to hark back to warmer days. But for now, open a bottle of chilled Champagne or a crisp, grassy, Marlborough Sauvignon to cut through the flavour of the goat’s cheese, and you have a fantastic festive beginning to your foodie celebrations. 

As with the rest of Primal Plate’s vegetarian Christmas day menu, most of the preparation for this dish can be done in advance of the big day. Then just before you sit down to eat, simply bring the different components together on pure white porcelain plates. Absolutely stunning to look at, this light and flavourful starter will still leave plenty of room for what is to follow.  

Red Pepper Rolls With Goat’s Cheese (serves 4)

Ingredients - for the pepper rolls 

4 red Romano peppers (the long, pointy ones!)

140g full-fat, soft, vegetarian goat’s cheese, without rind (I used Rosary Goat’s Milk Cheese)

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 tbsp chopped fresh chives

20g pine nuts, toasted

Freshly ground black pepper

1 tbsp Nonpareille capers, well rinsed - to garnish

Watercress sprigs, washed - to garnish

Whole fresh chives - to garnish

 

Ingredients - for the tomato vinaigrette

120g ripe tomatoes, chopped

2 tbsp red wine vinegar

2 tbsp low sugar tomato ketchup

1 tsp tomato paste

4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1-2 drops liquid stevia (alternatively, ½ - 1 tsp maple syrup), to taste - optional

 

Ingredients - for the basil pesto

50g fresh basil leaves

25g vegetarian Parmesan-style cheese

25g pine nuts, very lightly toasted (in a dry frying pan over a low heat)

4-6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (just enough to bind everything together into a thick, slushy sauce) 

1 small squeeze of fresh lemon juice - optional (but it helps the basil to keep its green colour)

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

 

Instructions for the red peppers and cheese filling

Pre-heat a grill to High. Line a large flat baking sheet or the grill pan with a non-stick baking mat or non-stick aluminium foil.

Cut the peppers in half lengthways, then remove the stalk end, seeds and any white stringy bits. 

Place the pepper halves cut side down - skin side up - on the baking tray and grill fairly close to the heat source for about 6 minutes, or until their skins blister and start to blacken. 

Remove from the grill. Lay a sheet of cling-film over the top of the peppers and allow to cool completely.

Meanwhile, in a bowl mix the goat's cheese and olive oil together with a fork until softened. Add the chopped chives, pine kernels and season with pepper. Set aside.

Carefully peel the cold peppers and place skinned side down onto a large clean plate.

If you're working in advance, the peppers and cheese can now be covered and refrigerated until needed.

Instructions - to make the basil pesto 

The easiest way to make pesto is to process the basil, cheese, toasted pine nuts and 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a food processor or blender - or use a hand-held stick blender - until it comes together into a thick, smooth, fragrant, bright-green sauce (scraping down the sides of the bowl as required). 

Tip the mixture into a bowl, stir in an extra tablespoon or two of olive oil if you think more is needed to make an oozy consistency, then season the pesto to taste with salt and pepper, adding a small squeeze of lemon juice, if liked.

Alternatively, you can pound the ingredients together in a pestle and mortar, gradually adding the olive oil until it is the right consistency.

Cover and refrigerate until needed.

 

Instructions - to make the tomato vinaigrette

Blend all the ingredients in a small food processor or blender, or with a hand-held stick blender, for 30 seconds until fully amalgamated.

Strain through a fine sieve into a small bowl. Taste and adjust seasoning to taste, then cover and refrigerate until needed.

 

Instructions - to assemble the dish

When you’re ready to serve the pepper rolls, lay the peppers out onto a cutting board - trim off any straggly edges, if necessary. 

Fill with the goat’s cheese mixture - about 1 generous tablespoon per pepper half. Spread the mixture evenly along the length of the peppers, leaving about 5mm clearance around the edges. Roll each half up into a neat roll.

Arrange the pepper rolls on individual plates. Garnish with sprigs of fresh watercress and whole chives (see picture). Drizzle the tomato vinaigrette around the edges of the plates and add 3 to 4 small dollops of the basil pesto. Finally, randomly scatter a few of the capers over and around. 

Serve with aplomb! Wowzers!  You’ve surpassed yourself!

 

Notes

The pesto will keep 3-5 days in a sealed jar in a fridge - it’s best to cover its surface with a little more olive oil if storing for more than a couple of days.

The tomato vinaigrette will keep for 2-4 days, in a sealed jar in a fridge. 


Cheese Cocktail Biscuits

by Susan Smith in , , , ,


Continuing the theme of keeping Christmas simple, please raise your glasses to these deliciously rich Cheese Cocktail Biscuits! Quick and easy to prepare, these grain-free, low-carb nibbles are just perfect for handing out with pre-dinner drinks. Plus, they’re so tasty, you don’t need to serve any other accompaniments with them.

To get the party started, simply pile these elegant-looking, cheesy, crispy, buttery delights onto a platter and serve with ice-cold dry martinis, chilled Champagne, Manzanilla sherry or frosty glasses of dry white wine. Talk about eat, drink and be merry!

Because they can be stored for up to a week in an airtight container, they’re also the ideal finger-food to accompany drinks when unexpected guests pop-by. 

In fact, I think they’re at their crispiest-best when ‘twice-baked’ and still warm from the oven. So if I’m not going to serve them as soon as they’re made, I just re-heat as many biscuits as I need later on. Simply lay the pre-baked biscuits out on a baking tray and bake at 180℃ for a further 5 minutes, cool briefly on a wire tray and then serve warm to your guests. Totally delicious and utterly brilliant - they must be one of the simplest and fastest party foods to make and bake ever!

Cheese Cocktail Biscuits (makes 20-24 biscuits)

Ingredients

55g butter, chilled and cut into small cubes

100g organic ground almonds

1 tsp gluten-free baking powder

50g Sukrin reduced-fat organic almond flour

80g ‘Parmesan-style’ vegetarian cheese, finely grated

¼ tsp sea salt

large pinch of cayenne 

freshly ground black pepper

1 tbsp cold water

1 small organic egg, beaten

1 dsp each of fresh rosemary and thyme leaves

Maldon sea salt flakes

 

Instructions

Pre-heat the oven to 180℃ /  350℉  / Gas mark 4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Put the butter, ground almonds, almond flour, baking powder, cheese, sea salt, cayenne and black pepper into the bowl of a food processor and whizz until just starting to clump together - takes about 30 seconds.

Add the tablespoon of cold water and whizz again until a soft dough starts to form - takes about 15 seconds. 

Tip the dough onto a sheet of non-stick baking parchment and knead lightly until the mixture comes together into a ball. Flatten out into a disc with the palm of your hand, then place another sheet of non-stick paper on top of the dough - this will stop it sticking to your rolling pin. Roll out the dough evenly (do quarter turns of the paper every few rolls) to 4mm-6mm (½ cm / ¼ inch) then using a 5cm plain-edged cutter, cut into rounds.

Place the biscuits on the pre-lined baking sheet - they won’t spread much. Gather up the rest of the dough and re-roll the trimmings, cutting out rounds as before until all the dough is used up - you should end up with about 24 biscuits.

Lightly brush the tops of the biscuits with beaten egg, then sprinkle over the fresh thyme and rosemary leaves. Finally, add a small pinch of Maldon sea salt flakes to each biscuit. 

Bake in the pre-heated oven for 12 to 15 minutes or until the biscuits are crisp and golden brown. You may want to turn the baking tray around half way through the cooking time to ensure the biscuits bake evenly.

Transfer to a wire baking tray and allow to cool before serving, still slightly warm, with drinks.   

 

Notes

The quality and flavour of the cheese you use for this recipe is vitally important to the end result. I highly recommend you track down the Gran Moravia Parmesan-style vegetarian cheese I’ve used because it is so like Parmesan in both texture and flavour that even I am hard-pressed to tell the difference. It’s a real find for vegetarians who love the taste of Parmesan but don’t want to eat Parmesan Reggiano because it contains animal rennet. This Italian-made hard cheese is truly the one I rave about every time I need a cheese to look, taste and behave like Parmesan - not only is it vegetarian and costs a lot less money, even my pernickety Parmesan-eating cat loves it! 

 

Carbohydrate 1g Protein 3g - per biscuit

A more-ish accompaniment to pre-dinner drinks, these simple canapés are a real crowd pleaser. If you're making them ahead of time, pop them back in the oven for 5 minutes to crisp them up, before serving them to your guests!

A more-ish accompaniment to pre-dinner drinks, these simple canapés are a real crowd pleaser. If you're making them ahead of time, pop them back in the oven for 5 minutes to crisp them up, before serving them to your guests!


Parsnip, Cranberry and Chestnut Loaf with Port Wine Sauce

by Susan Smith in , ,


In just three weeks time we’ll all be sitting down to (or feeling replete from) one of the most planned-for meals of the year; Christmas Day. I love it!  I especially love it now I’m fully committed to eating vegetarian. 

Notwithstanding that I’m not getting the goodwill vibe of the ritualistic killing of 10 million factory-farmed UK turkeys immediately before Christmas, I’m actually somewhat bewildered by people’s obsession with eating a traditional turkey dinner. If you’re not an experienced cook (and all the feedback I get tells me they’re few and far between) roast turkey has to be be one of the trickiest, most labour intensive, time consuming meals to get right. Then there’s the expense of putting a decent, organic, free-range turkey on the Christmas table (albeit, in my opinion, nothing less will do).

Putting my money where my mouth is, four years ago I blew almost an entire week’s housekeeping (£120) on a medium-sized (6kg) organic Kelly Bronze turkey for our celebration meal. To meet my self-imposed lunchtime deadline of 1pm, I set my morning alarm call for 7:30am so I could switch the oven on at 8:00am. A pre-prepared bird that size (firstly you have to stuff it and lubricate it up-to-the-nines, inside and out, in butter) takes 4.5 hours to cook, including five essential clock-watching interruptions of rather more pleasant social interactions, such as opening presents and drinking Champagne, if you want to be certain of a ‘tah-dah’ moment and gasps of appreciation when you present your perfectly roasted and dressed bird at the table. In retrospect, all the effort required now seems a bit passé and Bah Humbug for my taste! 

This year I will not be found up to my elbows in turkey early on Christmas morning, nor will I be on tenterhooks waiting for the kitchen buzzer to repeatedly call me to my basting duties. Instead, I will have pre-prepared for our delectation a leisurely, spectacular-looking, vegetarian lunch full of the flavours of Christmas, without the fuss. 

The star of the show, a Parsnip, Cranberry and Chestnut Loaf, isn’t altogether my idea. The original recipe for Parsnip, Cranberry and Chestnut Loaf first appeared in Good Food Vegetarian Christmas magazine, December 2009 and, as you can see, I’ve borrowed its presentation (sort of!). However, being a Primal-phile, my version had to be grain-free (no breadcrumbs allowed), refined sugar-free (found lurking in their cranberry sauce) and, for my taste, much more umami-savoury. Without the addition of the mature Cheddar that I’ve added to my recipe, the original seemed boringly bland. I believe that this is why many people eschew eating vegetarian, especially on special occasions, because all too often what you end up with is second-rate stodge - pastry, pasta, potato or rice and other grain-based dishes - that in their mundanity simply don’t sing-out ‘celebrate’, or entice you to eat them, even if you could. Which, being staunchly Primal I can’t - though sometimes I could kill for a decent roast potato!

In reality, vegetarians do not need to be short-changed. Even followers of the Primal/Paleo diet, who don’t eat grains or potatoes and, for compassionate reasons are reluctant to eat meat, can feast just as well, if not better than, their carnivore counterparts. This is how Primal Plate’s Christmas lunch is shaping up (although the starter and dessert may still yet be subject to further flights of fancy!): A red, green and white starter of Red Pepper Rolls with Goats Cheese, which looks like Christmas on a plate. Then, today’s amazing recipe for Parsnip, Cranberry and Chestnut Loaf with Port Wine Sauce, accompanied by Braised Red Cabbage, Creamed Celeriac and Baby Brussel Sprouts. Followed by cinnamon-laced Horchata Ice Cream with Stuffed Baked Apples in Clementine Syrup. Maybe, a platter of cheese with seasonal fruit and finally, coffee and mince pies. 

All this fabulous food with absolutely no added sugar, no grains, no legumes, no potato, no meat and, if everything goes according to my ‘get-ahead’ menu plan, definitely nothing to drive me into a cook’s frenzy on Christmas morning. In fact, I intend to spend less than an hour doing hands-on cooking on the day itself, and even that will largely involve primping the food so it looks its best on the plate! 

This should help to make Christmas everything it promises to be - a happy, food-filled celebration that everyone, including the cook, can enjoy. Almost every component of this lavish, rainbow-coloured, festive vegetarian feast can be made oven-ready and/or stashed in the fridge/freezer and ready-to-go by Christmas Eve and, in most instances, well before. By my reckoning, that means the most exacting thing I’ll have to do on Christmas day is core and stuff the apples through a Champagne-induced haze of alcohol! As much as I love cooking, not spending almost the entire day in the kitchen sounds like the best-ever Christmas to me!

Parsnip, Cranberry and Chestnut Loaf (Serves 8)

Ingredients

45g butter, plus a little extra for greasing

3 onions, finely chopped

15g pack sage, 8 leaves reserved, the rest finely chopped

180g pack cooked chestnuts

120g walnuts

100g ground almonds

1 tsp ground mace

100g good quality vegetarian Cheddar cheese, finely grated

2 eggs, beaten            

600g baby parsnips, trimmed, peeled and cut in half lengthways (or choose standard parsnips - long, thin ones if you can - peeled then halved lengthways) 

1 tbsp honey

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

180g Low-Sugar Cranberry & Orange Relish

Fresh cranberries and flat leaf parsley - to decorate 

 

Instructions

Boil a kettle of water. Grease a 900g (2lb) loaf tin with some butter, line with a long strip of non-stick baking parchment to cover the bottom and the two ends of the tin.

Melt 15g butter in a non-stick pan, add the onions and gently cook with the lid on the pan for 10-15 mins over a medium low heat until very soft and just starting to turn golden. Stir in the chopped sage, cook for a further 1 minute, then tip into a large mixing bowl. 

Pulse the chestnuts in a food processor until chopped into small bits, then tip these into the bowl with the onions and repeat with the walnuts. Now add the ground almonds, cheese, mace, beaten eggs, 1½ tsp salt and a generous amount of freshly grated pepper and mix everything together well.

Pour the boiling water from the kettle into the bottom half of a steamer. Put the halved parsnips in the top of the steamer, put the lid on and steam for 3 minutes.

Tip the parsnips onto a clean dry tea towel and pat them dry. Line up the best looking halves of parsnip (you’ll need about 10 halves) and lay them widthways, cut side down, along the bottom of the loaf tin. You will need to alternate the parsnip halves ‘thick ends to thin’ and pack them tightly side-by-side, so they fit snugly in the base of the tin. N.B. If you’re using normal-sized parsnips, cut off lengths of parsnip from the thinner ends and fit across the base of your loaf tin in the same way. Keep going until you have enough parsnip halves to snugly line the base of the tin. 

Take the parsnip halves back out of the loaf tin and set aside. Chop all the leftover parsnip into small neat dice and mix into the nut mixture. 

Melt the remaining 15g of butter in a heavy based frying pan over a medium heat. When it starts to foam add the honey and the reserved parsnip halves laying them cut side down in the pan. Fry gently in the butter (on the cut side only) for about 5 minutes or until they are lightly browned - they should be just turning golden. Take off the heat and set aside to cool. 

Heat oven to 180℃ (160℃ fan) / 350℉ Gas mark 4

When the fried parsnip are cool enough to handle, fit them back into the loaf tin, as before (cut and browned side down). Top with ⅓ of the nut mixture – pack it down well and smooth the surface. 

Spread the cranberry and orange relish on top, leaving a small space around the edges. 

Top with the remaining nut mixture and pack down as before. Cover with tin foil. 

The loaf can be made up to 24 hrs ahead, then covered and chilled, before continuing. 

Bake in the pre-heated oven for 1 hour. Take the loaf out of the oven and remove the foil, then put back in the oven for a further 10 minutes. 

Remove from the oven and allow to stand for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt the remaining 15g butter in a small frying pan and sizzle the reserved sage leaves for 1 minute. 

Loosen around the sides of the loaf with a round-bladed knife if you need to, then turn the loaf out onto a warm serving platter. Peel off the parchment paper. 

Brush the top of the loaf with the hot sage butter then decorate with cranberries, fried sage leaves and sprigs of flat-leaf parsley.  

Serve in slices with extra Cranberry Orange Relish and Port Wine Sauce.

 

Carbohydrate 30g Protein 12g - per portion

Port Wine Sauce (Serves 6)

Ingredients

2 tbsp olive oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

600ml (1 pint) soft, fruity red wine (I used McGuigan Estate Merlot)

1 dsp Marigold organic vegetable bouillon powder

2 tsp arrowroot powder 

3 tbsp port wine

1 dsp sugar-free redcurrant jelly

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

25g cold butter, cut into small pieces

 

Instructions

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan, add the onion, cover and fry over a low-medium heat for 10 minutes until it is tender but not browned. 

Stir in the bouillon powder and then pour in the wine, bring to the boil, and leave to simmer, without a lid, for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until it has halved in volume i.e. reduced to 300ml (½ pint). Take off the heat and strain through a sieve into a small clean saucepan

Put the arrowroot into a small bowl and mix to a paste with the port. Add a tablespoon of the hot wine mixture, stir, then quickly pour the slaked arrowroot into the saucepan with the rest of the wine mixture and stir briefly until it has thickened slightly (just below boiling point). 

Stir in the redcurrant jelly. Taste, then add salt and pepper, if necessary

You can make the sauce up to this point in advance. Either freeze and defrost overnight the day before you need it, or keep in the fridge until you want to serve.

Just before you want to serve the sauce, re-heat in a small saucepan to just below boiling point, then quickly whisk-in the cubes of cold butter to make it glossy.

 

Carbohydrate 5g Protein 0g - per portion


Horchata Ice-Cream with Chocolate Tiger Nut Splats

by Susan Smith in ,


The countdown to Christmas has begun and I have so many festive recipe ideas whizzing around my head that I am struggling to keep pace with my imagination. As for the quantity of ingredients I have to purchase for testing and tasting all of Primal Plate’s foolproof meal alternatives in readiness for the most anticipated meal of the year, they threaten to blow my housekeeping budget!

In our house, all the traditional Christmas food favourites - meat-based, grain-based, high carb and loaded with sugar - are off the menu because we find no joy in eating anything that’s going to harm us, or hurt another. We take the view that since it’s the season of goodwill, this should include all our furred and feathered friends. 

You may be thinking that without the turkey and all its trimmings, the Christmas pudding, cake, trifle and mince pies, what’s left? The answer is, probably too much deliciousness for me to have sufficient time before the big day to share all my ideas with you…but I’ll give it a go. The recipes I’ve created, tested and/or adapted to make them low-carb and primal are the answer to all your entertaining problems if you want to eat well and stay healthy. The aim is to make your festivities more delicious, more fun and less stressful. 

Today’s blog post for Horchata Ice Cream is something I conceived back in July but since the homely warmth of sweet cinnamon is so Christmassy and the exotic spiciness of nutmeg so enlivening in combination with all things sweet and creamy, I think the timing of this brilliant get-ahead frozen dessert is even more appropriate for now. And everyone can join in the fun. Gluten-free, grain-free, no eggs, no dairy or nuts (coconut cream can be substituted for cashew nuts - see note below) and no sugar added, this decadently delicious, sweet-tasting ice cream almost beggars belief. Even the Chocolate Tiger Nut Splats that accompany it are a sort of fortuitous accident. 

Peeled organic tiger nuts are an extremely moreish, nutritious, sweet-tasting tuber packed with resistant starch (the unpeeled ones are too hard for most people to chew and are best reserved for making tiger nut milk) so I now always have the organic skinned variety on hand for a quick and healthy sweet treat that can be eaten guilt-free between meals. 

However, if you try to eat more than one or two of them simultaneously they can be a bit dry, so for some time I’ve been toying with the idea of making skinned tiger nuts into an even more desirable snack by enrobing them in dark chocolate. I had in mind that I’d keep them separate (like chocolate covered coffee beans) but oh, the fiddle and the faff! Initially, I tried submerging each individual tiger nut into melted chocolate with the aid of a cocktail stick but then couldn’t get them back off the stick without pinging them across the kitchen table and splatting melted chocolate everywhere! Because I was attempting to do all of this in the time it took to make a cup of tea, I gave up and resorted to throwing all the tiger nuts into the bowl of chocolate in one go, giving the mixture a quick stir then dolloping teaspoonfuls onto a pre-lined tray and shoving the whole thing in the fridge to set. 

Fifteen minutes later I invited John to sample my now-solid chocolate-coated tiger nut ‘splats’ with his second cup of tea. Much to Sarah’s chagrin (she wasn’t around at the time), they only survived a single, brief, taste-testing session. It seems that melding tiger nuts together with dark chocolate is a recipe for gluttony! However, the sense of over-indulgence is more in the mind than an actual reality. With this dessert, everything simply comes together beautifully - cool, creamy ice cream made even more delectable with the first cold snap of chocolate melting into a silky smooth lubricating combo of dark chocolate and coconut oil that makes eating multiple raw tiger nuts effortless (less chew more swallow!). But best of all, because the resistant starch in both the Horchata Ice Cream and Chocolate Tiger Nut Splats can’t be digested by the body, this particular Christmas confection will never find its way onto your hips, so you can still stay on target for a slim and healthy start to your new year!

I think ice cream is the perfect way not to cook at Christmas. Make and freeze it the week before to save time later. This refreshing Horchata Ice Cream with Chocolate Tiger Nut Splats doesn’t really need any other accompaniment (though a baked apple or poached pear would be nice) - simply serve spiked with a mini-star sparkler to razzle-dazzle ‘em as a fabulous festive finale to Christmas lunch. 

Horchata Ice Cream (Serves 8)

Ingredients

250g organic tiger nuts, soaked in cold water for 4-6 hours (or overnight) then rinsed in fresh cold water and drained

75g raw organic cashews, soaked in cold water for 4-6 hours (or overnight) then rinsed in fresh cold water and drained

8 plump Medjool dates, stoned

1 tbsp vanilla essence

1/2 tsp organic ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

 

Instructions

Put the tiger nuts into a heavy-duty blender with 600ml fresh, cold filtered water and blend until smooth and creamy - about 3 minutes.

Take a nut milk bag (or a double layer of muslin) and set over a deep bowl. Carefully pour the blended tiger nut mixture into the bag/muslin cloth and secure the top of the bag (or gather the ends of the muslin cloth together) to hold the liquid inside. Using your hands twist and squeeze out all of the liquid until you’re left with only dry tiger nut pulp. Rinse out the blender jug.

Tip the tiger nut milk back into the rinsed-out blender. Add the dates, cashew nuts (or coconut cream - see note below), vanilla essence, cinnamon and nutmeg and blend again until the mixture is completely smooth.

Pour the horchata cream into a bowl, then cover with cling film and chill until very cold.

Churn the cold horchata cream in an ice cream maker (according to the manufacturers instructions) until it forms a soft-set ice cream (mine took about 35 minutes to get to this stage) then spoon into a freezer-proof lidded container and put in the freezer for 2 hours to set completely.

If not serving immediately, take the ice cream out of the freezer 30 minutes before you want to eat it and put in a refrigerator to allow it to soften slightly.

Scoop the Horchata Ice Cream into glass sundae dishes, add 2 or 3 Chocolate Tiger Nut Splats and a light dusting of cinnamon, if liked. 

Chocolate Tiger Nut Splats (Makes about 12)

Ingredients

75g organic peeled tiger nuts

50g good quality dark chocolate, coarsely chopped (at least 70% cocoa solids)

1 tsp organic coconut oil

 

Instructions

Put the chocolate chips into a heatproof bowl and set the bowl over a pan of barely simmering water to allow the chocolate to melt slowly. Do not allow the bottom of the bowl to come into contact with the water. Stir the chocolate occasionally until it is completely melted and smooth.

Take off the heat and add the coconut oil. Stir the coconut oil into the melted chocolate, then add the tiger nuts and keep stirring until all the tiger nuts are evenly coated in chocolate. 

Spoon rough teaspoonfuls of the mixture onto a baking sheet lined with non-stick paper and refrigerate until set. Peel the cold-set Chocolate Tiger Nut Splats off the paper and store in an airtight container in the fridge until required. 

Notes

You need a decent high-powered blender such as a Vitamix to blitz the tiger nuts into a smooth creamy milk and then to completely break down the cashews and dates to make a rich smooth custard. Pass the finished ice cream mixture through a fine sieve before freezing if you’re in any doubt that your blender isn’t up to it.

An ice cream machine does make for a smoother, creamier, airier ice cream but if you don’t own one it is still possible to make decent ice cream at home as long as you plan ahead. Firstly, chill your prepared ice cream mixture over an ice bath or for several hours in the fridge. Meanwhile switch your freezer onto fast-freeze. Pour your ice cream mixture into a deep freeze-proof container and freeze for about an hour until the edges start to get solid. Take out of the freezer and stir vigorously with a fork or whisk to break up the the ice crystals completely and combine with the still liquid centre. If you have one, a hand-held blender will give the best results. Straightaway, put the mixture back into the freezer for another half-hour then take it out again and repeat the mixing and mashing. Continue doing this every half hour until the ice cream is soft-set throughout, then let it freeze solid.

I used dark chocolate chips to save myself the hassle of chopping chocolate. 

Do not take the chocolate tiger nut splats out of the fridge until you’re ready to eat them. Quite apart from the fact that you’ll be missing the satisfying ‘snap’ of cold chocolate when you bite into them, they melt really quickly in your fingers or when left out at room temperature.

The celebration star sparklers are fun but you need to have a couple of people on hand to help light them and to get your dessert to the table in time to surprise your guests - it took me three attempts to get my sparkler to light for Sarah to take the photograph and, once lit, it didn’t sparkle for very long! Frustrating! Next time I’ll try these!

If you are allergic to nuts, you can substitute the cream off the top of a 400ml can of full-fat coconut milk for the cashew nuts. Put the unopened tin of coconut milk in the refrigerator to chill overnight. When you’re ready to make the ice cream, simply scoop off the top layer of solid coconut cream from the can of chilled coconut milk and add to the blender with the cold horchata milk and the rest of the ingredients before blending until smooth and then churning in an ice cream maker. You can use the coconut water that’s left to make a curry sauce or smoothie.

10th December 2015 update: I made Horchata Ice Cream again today for our Christmas day festivities. And, because we're all-grown ups, I added 2 tablespoons of vodka to the cold cream before churning. It isn't for the sake of imbibing more booze! The idea is that adding a little alcohol should help to keep the ice cream a little bit softer (alcohol doesn't freeze) whilst it's stored for the next couple of weeks.  

 

Carbohydrate 34g Protein 3g - per serving ice cream made with raw cashews

Carbohydrate 12g Protein 2g - per serving (3 chocolate tiger nut splats)


Roasted Cauliflower & Mushroom Curry with Green Pea Fritters and Avocado Cream

by Susan Smith in , , , , ,


Continuing my quest to find Primal Pronto veggie-inspired meals, I discovered these delicious Green Pea Fritters at The Healthy Chef. Initially, I was just looking for an alternative to Primal Naan Bread and Cauliflower Rice to accompany a family supper of Roasted Cauliflower & Mushroom Curry because, as satisfying as Primal naan bread might sound, since posting the original naan bread recipe I subsequently found out that I need to re-invent it without tapioca flour, (which increases blood sugar even more than wheat flour) and zanthan gum. Yikes! Sorry for the oversight! Plus, cauliflower ‘rice’ and cauliflower curry have zero gastronomic appeal when eaten in combo, so I wanted something new and tasty, preferably vegetable-based, to make our curry meal more appetising. 

As it turned out, the Green Pea Fritters were such a hit that I’m including them as part of this week’s blog, so today, three recipe posts for the price of one! Whilst the Green Pea Fritters and Avocado Cream are a perfect stand-alone meal for a fast and simple supper or to serve with drinks, when brought together with Roasted Cauliflower & Mushroom Curry you have several wonderful things that make for a fresh, creative, vegetarian meal fit for entertaining friends. I think the whole thing looks mouthwatering on the plate and it tastes just as good - spicy, savoury, creamy and delicious!

The cauliflower and mushroom curry recipe is adapted from a recipe in Daniel Green’s book, The Paleo Diet but there is one notable exception - if you try to make this curry with “1 tablespoon of chilli powder (or more to taste)” as directed in the book, please do not even think of inviting me for supper! It may simply be a ‘typo’ (I think it should read 1 teaspoon of chilli!) but it would nevertheless be ruinous to the finished dish and most likely would get missed by an inexperienced cook slavishly following the recipe. Thank goodness for Primal Plate’s extensive testing and tasting of all blog featured recipes before posting! 

I have added tiger nut flour to the pea fritter recipe to enhance the sweetness of the peas and on this occasion left out the lemon zest in favour of fresh mint because a) fresh mint and peas are a classic and b) the avocado cream has a lemony ‘hit’ all of its own that more than compensates for its absence in the fritters. Plus, it saves the time and effort of grating a lemon!

The pea fritters are very quick and easy to make - it’s just a matter of mixing everything together in a bowl and dropping spoonfuls of the mixture into a hot frying pan (only a few at a time), pressing them flat with the help of a spatula and cooking (for less than a total of 10 minutes) until they’re golden brown on each side. Meanwhile the avocado and cream cheese can be quickly whizzed to a luscious pale green cream in a food processor or with a hand-held blender.  

The Roasted Cauliflower and Mushroom Curry is just as fuss-free and makes a great vegetarian low-carbohydrate option for followers of Paleo and Primal diets. 

Put it all together for warming, nourishing mouthfuls of extreme pleasure.  

Green Pea Fritters (Serves 4)

Ingredients

300g frozen peas, defrosted

2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley (about 10g without stalks)

1 tablespoon freshly chopped mint leaves

2 large organic free range eggs, lightly beaten

100g full-fat soft cheese, softened (I used Longley Farm)

25g organic tiger nut flour

15g organic coconut flour

1½ tsp sea salt and a generous grinding of black pepper

1 small organic lemon, finely grated zest only - optional

1tbsp olive oil, for frying

Handful of pea shoots, to garnish - optional

 

Instructions

Crush the peas in a food processor using the pulse button. Make sure you keep the peas a coarse texture, this is not meant to be a puree.

Transfer the crushed peas to a bowl, add the parsley, mint, eggs, lemon zest (if using), tiger nut and coconut flours. The ground tiger nuts and coconut flour help to hold the mixture together during cooking. 

Season with the sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Taste and correct the seasoning if necessary. 

Soften the cream cheese by breaking it down with a fork then add to the pea fritter batter and combine well.

Heat a little olive oil in a large heavy-based non-stick frying pan over a low heat.

Add heaped tablespoons of the pea fritter mixture to the pan -  you should get about 16 bite-sized fritters. To avoid overcrowding the pan you may need to cook them in several batches. 

Cook the pea fritters over a medium heat for 5-6 minutes without disturbing them. When they are firm and golden on the underside, carefully turn them over with the aid of a flat-ended spatula. 

Continue to cook for a further 3-5 minutes or until the fritters are cooked through and golden brown on both sides. 

Immediately transfer to an oven proof dish (or serving platter if you’re handing them out with drinks) and then into a pre-heated hot oven until you’ve cooked the rest of the fritters and you’re ready to eat.

 

Avocado Cream (Serves 3-4)

Ingredients

1 large ripe avocado

½ lemon, juiced

100g full-fat soft cheese, softened by breaking down with a fork (or use Waitrose Duchy Organic Soft Cheese straight out of the tub).

Sea salt

Cayenne pepper

 

Instructions

Peel, stone and mash the avocado with the lemon juice then mix together with the soft cheese, sea salt and cayenne pepper to taste until it is completely smooth and creamy - this is best done in a food processor or with a hand-held blender.  

Serve as a dip with Green Pea Fritters or crudités.

 

Roasted Cauliflower & Mushroom Curry (Serves 4)

Ingredients

1 medium head of cauliflower, broken into small bite-sized florets

1 large onion, finely chopped

3 tbsp olive oil

250g button mushrooms

1 x 2½ cm piece of fresh ginger, grated

1 tbsp ground coriander

1 tbsp ground cumin

1 tbsp garam masala

1 tsp chilli powder

1 tbsp Marigold organic vegetable bouillon powder

400ml full-fat organic  coconut milk

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

a large handful of fresh coriander, chopped - to garnish

 

Instructions

Pre-heat the oven to 200℃ / 400℉ / Gas mark 7

In a large bowl, toss the cauliflower florets in 2 tablespoons of olive oil and season with freshly ground black pepper.

Tip onto a non-stick roasting tray and roast for 25 minutes, turning occasionally until the cauliflower is nicely browned. Remove from the oven and set aside.

In a wide, shallow pan set over a moderate heat, fry the onion in the remaining olive oil with the pan lid on for about 8 minutes, stirring from time to time, until softened and starting to brown.

Add the mushrooms and ginger and cook for another 1-2 minutes, stirring. Stir in the spices and bouillon powder and cook for another minute.

Add the coconut milk and season to taste. Bring to the boil then stir in the cauliflower.

Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan and cook for about 5 minutes. 

Ladle into warmed bowls and top with plenty of fresh coriander. 

 

Notes

I was in two minds about the Primal Pronto status of the Green Pea Fritters and Roasted Cauliflower & Mushroom Curry because both these recipes are so easy and fuss-free. In the end I decided that Primal Pronto should be defined as: a recipe with 5 or less main ingredients, or one that can be prepped, cooked and on the table within 45 minutes. The Roasted Cauliflower & Mushroom Curry didn’t quite make it on both counts (realistically it’s takes more like 50 minutes to make) but it is still wonderfully warming comfort food that’s simple to prepare. It’s also suitable for vegans.  

You can defrost the peas quickly by putting them in a heat proof jug and pouring boiling water over. Allow to stand for a few minutes, then drain well and proceed with the recipe. 

The uncooked pea fritter batter can be made well in advance and stored in the fridge overnight. The mixture will make approximately 16 small or 8 large fritters. I use a heaped tablespoon to make the bite-sized ones and a ¼ US cup for bigger ones.

Two large Green Pea Fritters per person served with a medium/soft boiled egg and a dollop of avocado cream is great for a fast and easy low-carb brunch or supper.

If you can’t get button mushrooms for the curry, use closed-cap mushrooms cut into halves or quarters instead.

 

Carbohydrate 14g Protein 11g - per serving (4 small or 2 large) of Green Pea Fritters

Carbohydrate 5g Protein 2g - per serving of Avocado Cream

Carbohydrate 22g Protein 8g - per serving of Roasted Cauliflower & Mushroom Curry


Chocolate Fondants

by Susan Smith in , ,


If you’ve ever watched Masterchef you’ll have seen contestant after contestant being warned by Messrs John Torode and Gregg Wallace how tricky it is to make perfect gooey-centred chocolate fondants. Some contestants go ahead anyway (let’s face it, by the time they’re being filmed, they’re already committed!) and get their timings just right so their fondants come out beautifully cooked on the outside and runny in the middle - but many don’t. Today's recipe is a sure-fire way to ensure that you can make chocolate fondants without any of the brouhaha, giving everyone the impression that you’re an absolute genius in the kitchen! (Psst! you can even make them 24 hours before you want to eat them)

Love chocolate? You’ll love these luxurious hot chocolate fondants. Better still, they’re not the ‘unhealthy' indulgence you might have pre-supposed. On the contrary, eaten in moderation, dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids) is very good for you because it’s chock-full of phytonutrients (specifically cocoa flavanols) that are scientifically proven to be beneficial for the heart, circulation and brain.

As part of a Primal lifestyle, best quality dark chocolate does not make you fat. Typically, I eat 2 or 3 squares (up to 15 grams) every day with my morning Nespresso (a double-whammy for the senses which reminds me that life is really worth living) but at least one scientific study found that young people consuming 42.6g of chocolate a day had slimmer waists and lower BMIs than those eating less. 

Nice but not naughty after all, dark chocolate has finally achieved superfood status. I suggest you grab a spoon and get stuck in! 

Chocolate Fondants (Makes 4 large or 6 small fondants)

Ingredients

125g unsalted butter + extra for greasing 

3 whole large organic eggs 

2 organic egg yolks (in addition to the the eggs above)

25g raw organic ‘runny’ honey

8 drops organic liquid stevia 

125g dark chocolate - I used Callebaut Finest Satongo dark chocolate chips

25g tiger nut flour

Good quality chocolate bar, broken into squares (I used Michel Cluizel’s Maralumi dark chocolate bar)

Sukrin icing sugar, for dusting

Organic double or pouring cream, for serving

 

Instructions

Grease either 4 large or 6 small ramekin dishes.

Melt together the butter and chocolate in a bowl over a pan of hot (not boiling) water on the hob.

Whilst the chocolate/butter mixture is melting, whisk the eggs / egg yolks / honey and liquid stevia together for about 5 minutes until pale and very thick (it should hold its shape for a few seconds when a little of the mixture is flicked over the surface) - you really need an electric whisk for this. 

With a balloon whisk, whisk the tiger nut flour into the chocolate/butter mixture. 

Cool the chocolate mixture and then pour into the whisked egg mixture.

Using a metal spoon, fold gently to combine the two mixtures. 

Divide the mixture equally between the ramekins. 

Leave in the fridge for up to 24 hours before they are required.

Just before cooking, press a square of chocolate into the centre of each ramekin.

Cook for 12-15 minutes at 200℃ / 400℉ / Gas mark 6

Sprinkle with icing sugar and serve immediately.

 

Notes: 

These chocolate fondants are foolproof because you’re not relying on precise cooking times to ensure that the middle of the fondants are soft and runny - instead the melted chocolate squares create a yummy pool of hot chocolate at their centre. 

The mixture will carry on cooking in the ramekins, so eat immediately. 

Sukrin sweetener is produced via a natural fermentation process from the glucose naturally occurring in pears, melons and mushrooms. The powdered form of Sukrin I’ve used for dusting the chocolate fondants looks, tastes and behaves in exactly the same way as normal white icing sugar made from sugar beet/cane. And, I’m pleased to report, it has no bitter after taste. 

 

Carbohydrate 16g Protein 9g - per small chocolate fondant

Carbohydrate 25g Protein 14g - per large chocolate fondant