Almond Apricot & Lemon Cake

by Susan Smith in


Whilst fresh, ripe apricots are a metaphor for summer, I couldn’t wait to bring the clocks forward by making this very useful, springtime Almond Apricot & Lemon Cake. All light and lovely - almonds and apricots are a fabulous pairing - I decorated my cake with a top layer of no-sugar almond paste and fresh wild violets from the garden in readiness for an Easter Sunday teatime treat.

The fact is, I’m not brilliant at cake decorating, so homemade almond paste, edible flowers, which smell divine by the way, and a pretty ribbon does the job. The result is a really moist, light, golden cake studded with small pieces of fruit, which isn’t a million miles away from traditional Simnel cake, but looks prettier. 

Gorgeous as this cake is, if you want something less fussy, simply top with a sifting of icing sugar and serve with coffee or, better still, mint tea. You can also try your own homemade Lavender Mint Tea.

The cake is then easily transformed into an ‘after dinner’ dessert by serving with poached apricots, rhubarb, plums or pears. Or you can substitute an orange for the lemon in the recipe and serve with a fresh orange salad and whipped cream. In my imagination, the cake eating possibilities for this simple, delicious cake are endless.

Easy to make, it keeps like a dream.  

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Almond Apricot & Lemon Cake (Serves 12)

Ingredients - for the cake

1 organic lemon

100g organic sun dried apricots

6 organic eggs - preferably at room temperature

100g raw organic runny honey (raw acacia honey resists crystallization so retains its runny consistency without heating)

50g Sukrin:1

250g organic ground almonds

Sukrin Icing - for sifting over

 

Ingredients - for the almond paste, optional

125g organic ground almonds

25g Sukrin Gold

25g Sukrin icing sugar

1 tsp fresh organic lemon juice

1-2 tsp organic maple syrup

1 organic egg yolk

 

Ingredients - to assemble, optional

3 tbsp organic no sugar apricot jam

Edible flowers

Organic flaked almonds, lightly toasted

Ribbon

 

Instructions - to make the cake

Wash the lemon, then put it in a small saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil and simmer gently until soft (about 45 minutes). Take off the heat, add the dried apricots to the pan. Leave to cool.

Grease a loose-based 8” cake tin (preferably springform) and line the sides and base with non-stick baking parchment.

Pre-heat the oven to 150℃ / 300℉ / Gas mark 2.

Drain the lemon and apricots. Cut the lemon into quarters and remove any pips. Dry the apricots on kitchen paper then cut each one into several pieces. Put the lemon quarters and apricots into a food processor or blender and whizz together until very finely chopped into almost - but not quite - a smooth puree i.e. it needs to retain some texture.

Using an electric whisk, whisk the eggs, honey and Sukrin:1 together for about 6 to 8 minutes until they are pale and thick and until the mixture holds its shape for a few seconds when it’s flicked across the surface of the rest of the mix.

Whisk in the lemon and apricot puree. Then, using a large metal spoon or rubber spatula, gently fold in the ground almonds.

Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 1¼ hours, or until a cocktail stick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. N.B. To prevent the cake from getting too brown, cover the top of the cake lightly with a circle of non-stick baking parchment after the first 45 minutes baking time. 

After you take the cake from the oven, leave it to cool completely in the tin, then turn out carefully and remove the paper. 

Dust the cake with Sukrin Icing just prior to serving.

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Instructions - to make the almond paste, optional

Put the ground almonds, Sukrin Gold and Sukrin Icing into a food processor and pulse to combine.

Add the egg yolk, lemon juice and 1 teaspoon of maple syrup and process until a soft, dry paste forms (takes about 1 minute). If it doesn’t come together into a malleable paste (test by squeezing a little of the mixture between two fingers to see if it holds together), add another teaspoon of maple syrup and whizz again. It’s a fine balance. The longer you process the almonds the more oil is released, which helps bind the mixture together. However, it you over-process it, the paste becomes too oily and sticky to handle.  

Form the almond paste into a ball then place between two sheets of cling film or baking parchment. Flatten slightly with the palm of your hand, then roll out evenly into an 8 inch (20 cm) circle. N.B. You can either draw a circle on the back of the bottom sheet of baking parchment to guide you or use a cake tin liner placed under the bottom sheet of cling film.

 

Instructions - to assemble the cake

Invert the cake onto a serving plate so that the bottom side of the cake becomes the top i.e. you have a completely flat surface to work on. 

Heat the jam slightly in a small saucepan and brush it over the top of the cake.

Remove the top sheet of parchment or cling film from the rolled out circle of almond paste, then with the help of the paper or cling film still underneath, lift the almond paste onto the top of the cake. Press down lightly with your hands, then peel away the remaining paper/cling film.

Crimp the edge of the almond paste with your fingers or alternatively create a pattern around the top edge of the cake by light indenting with the prongs of a fork or wooden skewer. Decorate with organic edible flowers, toasted flaked almonds and a matching ribbon (see photo).

Just prior to serving, sift a little Sukrin Icing over the top of the cake.  

 

Carbohydrate 13g Protein 9g - per serving of plain cake

Carbohydrate 16g Protein 11g - per serving of cake with almond paste

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Lemon Courgetti With Summer Vegetables & Tomato Salad

by Susan Smith in , ,


Celebrate summer, when it shows up, with an ‘Italian-style’ meal of healthy, seasonal deliciousness. The shops are filled with a cheap and plentiful supply of courgettes in July and August, so now is the time to make them into the brilliant, low-carb, pasta substitute popularly dubbed “courgetti”. This fresh, healthy and surprisingly substantial dish accompanied by a selection of the most vibrant of summer fruits - sweet tomatoes - is an amazingly flavourful way to enjoy a taste of Italy without the high-starch hit you get from eating regular pasta.  

My eldest daughter Elizabeth provided the inspiration for Primal Plate's tomato salad recipe. Last weekend she served up something very similar at an impromptu family BBQ and it tasted so fresh and looked so colourful that I was reminded how versatile a simply prepared and beautifully presented plate of tomatoes can be. This salad is a great way to lighten-up all manner of dishes, or perhaps to eat on its own with some fresh goat's cheese with grain-free bread to mop up the juices.

Quick, light and super-easy to make, this lovely combo is my idea of summer on a plate!

Ingredients - for the Lemon Courgetti with Summer Vegetables

300ml organic double cream

1 organic lemon, juice and finely grated zest

80g organic full-fat cream cheese

100g Parmesan-style cheese, finely grated

200g frozen peas

200g frozen baby broad beans

200g fresh asparagus tips

4 medium-large, firm, flat (not curved) chunky courgettes - size and shape matters!

small bunch of basil

sea salt and black pepper

 

Ingredients - for the Tomato Salad

600g ripe vine tomatoes - for interest and sheer good looks, choose from a selection of red or yellow cherry tomatoes, heirloom golden-orange, red and green vine tomatoes, baby plum tomatoes or the beautiful red and green Tigerella varieties

2 tbsp organic cold-pressed olive oil

2 tsp best-quality Balsmanic of Modena vinegar

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

fresh basil leaves - to decorate

Instructions

Boil a kettle-full of fresh water. Pre-heat 4 individual pasta bowls.

Measure the frozen peas and broad beans into two separate heat-proof jugs or bowls. Pour the boiling water from the kettle equally over the peas and broad beans and allow to stand until they’re defrosted. 

Prepare the courgettes by washing them and spiralising into long thin spaghetti-like shreds - alternatively, this can be done with a knife by cutting them into long, thin strips.

Drain the defrosted peas through a sieve and tip them into a clean bowl. When the broad beans have cooled down, drain them too before popping them out of their tough outer skins between your finger and thumb straight into the bowl with the peas. 

Trim the bottom of the asparagus tips - it’s not necessary, but I also like to peel the bottom third of the stems with a potato peeler. Boil a second kettle of water.

Heat the cream with the lemon zest in a medium-large saucepan over a medium heat until it comes to the boil. Turn the heat down to simmer and continue cooking for 3 minutes. Cover and set aside.

Meanwhile, pour the boiling water into the bottom of a steamer, then put the asparagus tips into the steamer basket, cover and steam for just 1 minute. Remove the asparagus tips from the steamer with a slotted spoon into a bowl of cold water (or put into a sieve and run under the cold tap) to ‘set’ their bright green colour. Drain and dry on kitchen paper. Cut the asparagus into 3 centimetre pieces (or in half) and then add them to the bowl of peas and broad beans.

Reserve 4 sprigs of basil then strip the leaves off the rest of the basil stems and tear them into small pieces. Set aside.

Whisk the cream cheese, 80g of Parmesan and 30ml of lemon juice into the lemon infused cream and then over a medium heat bring the sauce back to just below boiling point. Taste, then season with sea salt and a good grinding of black pepper. Taste again and add a little more lemon juice if you think it needs it. 

Add the asparagus, broad beans and peas to the cream sauce and then over a low/medium heat, allow the vegetables to gently warm through - make sure the sauce gets nice and hot but don't let it boil.

Bring the water in the steamer back to the boil, add the courgetti to the steamer basket, cover and steam for just 1½ minutes - no longer. They need to cook just long enough to lose their raw-edge and get hot but not so long that they become limp and soggy. 

Immediately tip the courgetti out of the steamer basket onto a dry, clean tea-towel. Wrap them up in the tea towel to absorb as much water as possible.

Divide the drained courgetti equally between the 4 pre-heated serving dishes. Stir the torn basil leaves into the cream sauce and vegetables then ladle or spoon this on top of the courgetti - distributing the vegetables and sauce evenly. Sprinkle the rest of the grated Parmesan-style cheese over each serving and finish with a good grinding of black pepper and a sprig of fresh basil.

Serve immediately with tomato salad.   

 

Instructions - to make Tomato Salad

No need to peel or remove the seeds from the tomatoes. Wash and slice the larger tomatoes, removing the core at the stem end by cutting out a small ‘v’ at the centre of the bigger slices with the point of a small, sharp knife. Halve the cherry tomatoes.

Layer all the tomatoes attractively on a large platter. Lightly season with sea salt and then drizzle over the olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Add a grinding of freshly ground black pepper and decorate with green and/or purple basil leaves. 

Serve at room temperature for a simply delicious way to enjoy all the nutritional benefits of sweet, fragrant tomatoes. Yum!

Notes

If you prefer, you can substitute the frozen vegetables with 500 grams each of fresh peas and broad beans (weight before podding). Pod them, then cook in boiling water (or steam) for 3 minutes before draining well and adding to the cream sauce to keep warm. 

 

Carbohydrate 14g Protein 19g - per serving of lemon courgetti with summer vegetables

Carbohydrate 7g Protein 1g - per serving of tomato salad


Flourless Lemon & Raspberry Swiss Roll

by Susan Smith in


I have to say, this light and airy, low-carb, grain-free, refined sugar-free and fat-free Swiss roll cake mix is probably the best Primal/Paleo cake I’ve ever made! Rightly so, because I made it for my daughter Sarah’s birthday on 4th July, and she is most definitely worth it. 

The night before her birthday, I was slightly panicked as to how I was going to bake a birthday surprise at such short notice. I’d bought in a stack of fresh summer fruits - just in case I could conjure up something fabulous - but the idea for this impressive looking, light-as-a-feather cake didn’t come to me until about ten 'sleep-hours' before Sarah was due to come over the following morning to unwrap her presents.

Baking an impromptu, untried, made-up recipe for a special occasion isn’t normally my bag, but since only cake will do when there’s a birthday to celebrate I got up early the next morning with my fingers crossed. I am so glad I did. This beautiful cake is not nearly as daunting to make as it looks and the finished result is so light in texture and tastes so fresh that it cannot fail to delight anyone lucky enough to share it. In fact, it is so good, four of us couldn’t restrain ourselves from eating the whole cake in one sitting. Furthermore, as Sarah’s elder sister hadn’t been there for the birthday party itself, it was a great excuse to bake two of these cakes on consecutive days! Once you try this light and lovely treat, you’ll understand why we find this delicious lemon and raspberry Swiss roll totally irresistible.

On the face of it, I should probably consider myself ‘caked-out’ for now, however the truth is, I’m actually motivated to seek out more people whose birthday is imminent! As there’s nothing unhealthy about this Flourless Lemon & Raspberry Swiss Roll, you really don’t need an excuse to indulge. If you love someone enough to want to bake them cake, this one’s gorgeous good looks and lemony, raspberry goodness is all you need to impress.

Flourless Lemon & Raspberry Swiss Roll (makes 12 slices)

Ingredients - for the Swiss roll

4 large organic free-range eggs, separated

40g Sukrin:1 granulated sweetener

40g organic ‘runny’ honey (I actually used raw unpasteurised honey and gently heated it to make it runny)

Zest of 1 organic lemon, finely grated

75g organic ground almonds                            

25g organic tiger nut flour

½ tsp baking powder

1 tbsp Sukrin icing sugar - for dusting top of cake

 

Ingredients - for the raspberry sauce

150g fresh raspberries

75g no added sugar raspberry spread

 

Ingredients - for the lemon cream

125ml organic double cream

1 tbsp Sukrin icing sugar

Zest of 1 organic lemon, finely grated

 

Instructions

Butter and line a 22.5 cm x 32.5 cm (approx. 9” x 13”) Swiss roll tin with non-stick baking paper. 

Preheat the oven to 180°C / 350℉ / Gas mark 4

Sift the tiger nut flour and baking powder together into a bowl and then add the ground almonds. Stir to combine.

If using ‘set’ honey, place in a small saucepan over a very gentle heat until it liquefies. Take off the heat and allow to cool down for a couple of minutes.

In a medium/large bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff. In a separate large bowl, whisk the egg yolks, the lemon zest, Sukrin:1 and 'runny' honey until light, airy and mousse-like i.e. very pale and thick – this will take about 3 minutes using an electric whisk on high speed.

Stir the ground almonds and tiger nut flour into the egg yolk and lemon zest mixture. 

With a rubber spatula, gently fold in the egg whites, a third at a time, until completely mixed in.

Pour the mixture out onto the lined baking tray and bake for 10-15 minutes until golden, firm and springy (mine took exactly 13 minutes).

Remove from the oven and leave in the tray to cool, covered with another piece of baking paper and a damp tea towel.

To make the raspberry sauce: In a small saucepan set over a low heat, cook 75g fresh raspberries with the raspberry spread. Bring to a gentle simmer, then using the back of a fork, crush the raspberries down into a sauce. Take off the heat and set aside to allow the sauce to cool down completely.

To make the lemon cream: Whip the cream with 1 tablespoon of Sukrin icing sugar and the lemon zest until almost thick i.e. stiff but still speadable. Cover and keep in the refrigerator until you’re ready to assemble the cake. Cut the remaining raspberries in half.

When the cake is cool, remove the tea towel and parchment paper and lay them down flat onto a work surface - with the non-stick paper sat on top of the tea towel. 

Generously dust the top of the sponge with Sukrin icing sugar then flip it out onto the parchment paper with one of the short edges facing you. Carefully peel the baking parchment off the cake.

With a small sharp knife score a line 2 centimetres in from the short edge nearest to you - making sure you only cut about halfway through the depth of the sponge. 

Next, spread the raspberry sauce all over the top of the cake to within about 2 centimetres of the edge. Then layer the whipped lemon cream on top of that - again leaving a 2 cm edge all the way around. Finally, dot the raspberry halves evenly on top of the cream. 

Start rolling the cake up tightly from the short end where you scored a line. Using the parchment paper to help you, keep rolling tightly until you get to the end. Carefully lift the Swiss roll onto a plate with the seam side down.

Chill for 30 minutes before serving.

 

Notes

Aside from Sukrin’s stevia/erythritol sweetener, the best natural alternative sweetener for baking is organic maple syrup because it is not chemically affected by heat. However, whilst testing this cake recipe out I didn’t want to risk maple syrup’s distinctive taste coming through, so I chose to use honey.

Using half honey and half Sukrin:1 to sweeten this delicate sponge minimises the potential aftertaste when using stevia alone. Whilst the vast majority of honey available in the shops has already been subjected to heat - so it makes no difference whether you decide to heat it or cook with it at home - this is not true of Na’vi’s wonderful, raw, unpasteurised honey. Heating Na’vi’s honey is sacrilege! It destroys many of its beneficial effects, killing off its ‘superfood’ status. If you’re going to buy Na’vi honey - and I recommend that you do - simply enjoy its health-giving benefits spooned straight from the jar. It was Hobson’s choice that I used it for my cake because it’s the only honey I ever keep in my store cupboard! 

 

Carbohydrates 8g Protein 4g - per slice


Primal Pronto Drop Scones

by Susan Smith in , , ,


Light, versatile and so quick to make, these little fluffy cushions of loveliness can be served with either sweet or savoury dishes whenever you fancy something bready to eat. I like them for breakfast - either topped with a little raw honey, maple syrup, fresh berries or 100% fruit spread - though my real ‘soft-spot’ is for old fashioned marmalade, because it brings back memories of my childhood. 

Sent off to boarding school at five years old, I could never seem to get enough food to eat! It was here that I was introduced to Robertson’s Golden Shred marmalade with their (now politically incorrect) Golliwog branding, which included beautifully made enamel brooches to collect and pin to the lapel of my school blazer. Overly sweet and unsophisticated it may have been, but back then, much like Paddington Bear, marmalade was my hunger monster’s saviour! 

School breakfasts were usually our choice of pre-packaged cereal (Sugar Puffs for me please!) followed by plates stacked high with yesterday’s scantily ‘buttered’ (with Stork margarine, I fear), pre-sliced white bread. It seemed to me that magic marmalade could transform these half-stale offerings into something rather nice that temporarily filled me up. Teatimes were similarly skewed in favour of high carb foods. Bread with jam or chocolate spread, a banana and soft, sticky buns - the sort topped with glacé white icing. We didn’t mind! These are sweet treats as far as children are concerned and, for me, also a real source of comfort that helped me deal with the stress of being away from home.

Unfortunately, overloaded with wheat, gluten and sugar, young children are particularly vulnerable to tummy bloating, clogged-up systems and chronic constipation. Our guardians must have had an inkling because every morning they would check to see if we were ‘regular’ by keeping a 'poo log'! The ‘little me’ thought it most prudent to try and save face when asked the question, so I’d always answer in the affirmative. Unfortunately, I didn’t realise that no amount of toilet paper rammed down the loo would disguise the fact if I’d lied! I’d only know I’d been rumbled when I was given All-Bran for breakfast instead of my favourite cereal. My blushes weren’t spared either. An uninteresting bowl of roughage foisted on a child lets everyone know where their bowels are at. I was embarrassed and ashamed - as if it was my fault! Scarred by this early life experience, I was still eating what I thought was a mandatory bowl of All-Bran every morning up until my thirty-eighth birthday! 

Being regularly fed massive amounts of refined, processed, high carbohydrate foods not only caused my digestive discomfort, but also nagging hunger too. I was part of an experimental dietary disaster promulgated by the food industry in collusion with public health advisers, which in my view was, and still is, tantamount to child abuse because… 

Normally when you eat some food your blood sugar goes up and your insulin levels rise to get the nutrients into your body cells. Once this work is done, your blood sugar goes back to normal. All is as it should be and you’ll only get hungry again when you need more energy. However, when you eat certain foods that contain a lot of sugar and carbohydrates, your blood sugar sky-rockets. In response, your body releases inordinately high amounts of insulin to get the sugar inside your cells. Once your blood sugar spikes, the excess insulin, which is far more than your body needs, continues affecting your blood sugar way and beyond just normalising it. Consequently, your blood sugar continues to plummet much lower than it’s supposed to. At which point, your brain then tells you you’re still hungry! Unbelievably, as a child, in an attempt to satisfy these constant hunger cravings I resorted to eating Germolene after dormitory lights out! By the time I was eleven I was, unsurprisingly, quite porky!

Fast forward almost sixty years, and today’s recipe for Primal Pronto Drop Scones served with orange fruit spread is my idea of heaven. This is bread and marmalade revisited in satisfyingly good taste with no nasty consequences. As warm and as soft as a hug, these high protein, low-carb, nutritious Primal Pronto Drop Scones a.k.a Scotch pancakes served straight from the pan, showcase all the comfort factor of freshly baked or toasted bread with the crunch of pumpkin seeds. Grain-free and gluten-free, and loaded up with tangy, low-carb, organic orange ‘marmalade’ served with a plentiful supply of freshly brewed coffee, they are one of the things I most love about being a grown-up. Oh, and they are really filling too!  

Primal Pronto Drop Scones (make about 16)

Ingredients

150 g organic ground almonds

50 g organic tiger nut flour

2 tbsp organic coconut flour               

2 tsp baking powder

½ tsp sea salt

250 ml raw organic full-fat milk (or homemade, unsweetened almond milk)

3 eggs, beaten 

30 ml organic tiger nut oil (or coconut oil, melted)

2 drops organic liquid stevia

50 g organic pumpkin seeds

1 tbsp organic tiger nut oil (or coconut oil) - for frying

Instructions

In a large bowl, combine the ground almonds, tiger nut flour, coconut flour, baking powder and sea salt together with a whisk.

Measure out the milk into a jug then add the beaten eggs, liquid stevia, and tiger nut oil.

Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and slowly pour in the wet ingredients, whisking the mixture as you go. Keep whisking until the mixture becomes a thick, but still pourable, smooth batter - no lumps please! 

Set aside for a minute or two to allow the coconut flour to fully thicken out the mixture. If the batter then seems too thick to pour thickly from a spoon or ladle, add a little filtered water. When you’re satisfied that the batter is of a thick ‘dropping’ consistency, stir in the pumpkin seeds. 

Place a smidge of oil in a large, shallow non-stick frying pan and set over a medium heat. When hot (takes about 2 minutes), spoon small pools (heaped tablespoons) of the batter into the pan, spacing them well apart - no more than 2 or 3 pancakes at a time - making each pancake about 6 centimetres (2.5 inches) in diameter. 

Cook for about 1½ - 2 minutes until the underside is golden brown, then using a flexible, thin-edged silicon spatula to help you, carefully turn them over and cook for 1½ - 2 minutes on the reverse side. 

Turn onto warmed plates and serve immediately with either no-added-sugar 100% fruit spread, fruit puree, fresh berries, a drizzle of honey or maple syrup. 

 

Notes

Primal Pronto Drop Scones are every bit as good served alongside a cooked breakfast, a bowl of soup, or curry. Alternatively, spread lavishly with savoury toppings e.g. Carrot Hummus or a feisty tomato and avocado salsa for a filling snack or starter. Or, make them into small ‘blini-sized’ canapés and serve with drinks.  

Whilst these drop scones are very quick and easy to make, you may find you need to cook several batches before you get fully acquainted with the optimum temperature (medium/low not medium/high) and exact cooking times (keep checking their doneness' after 1½ minutes) to get them light, fluffy and perfectly golden on both sides. N.B. Let the drop scones firm up just enough for you to turn them over without the uncooked batter running off the top surface when you do. It takes a little practice!  

 

Carbohydrate 3g Protein 4g - per pancake


Spicy Salmon Fishcakes / Halloumi & Toasted Cashews With Paleo Pad Thai ‘Slaw’

by Susan Smith in , , ,


East meets West in this Primal/Paleo culinary take on fishcakes and coleslaw. Without the potato, flour and breadcrumbs used in traditional fishcake recipes, these Asian inspired, fishcakes are so much simpler and quicker to make. 

Fresh and light - with no mayo or endless amounts of shredded cabbage to chomp your way through - the Pad Thai ‘Slaw’ is also a wonderful thing!

Put the two together for a surprisingly satisfying, clean-eating, Omega-3 packed family meal that’s high in protein and low in carbs.

Vegetarians can also make a meal of this punchy-flavoured Paleo Pad Thai ‘Slaw’ by topping it with 60g toasted cashew nuts and replacing the salmon fishcakes with slices of freshly griddled ‘vegetarian-friendly’ - i.e. not made with animal rennet - halloumi cheese - you’ll need to allow about 80g-100g of halloumi per person.

Tasty, pure and simple…job done! 

Spicy Salmon Fishcakes With Paleo Pad Thai ‘Slaw’ (Serves 4)

Ingredients - for the fishcakes

800 g wild Alaskan salmon, boned and skinned

3 spring onions, finely chopped

juice of 1 lime

1 tsp organic dried chilli flakes

1 tbsp tamari

1 dsp fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated (approx. 1 x 2.5 cm / 1inch piece)

4 tbsp finely chopped coriander leaves

1 organic egg, beaten 

1 tsp sea salt

freshly ground black pepper

75-100 g organic ground almonds

1-2 tbsp organic coconut oil - for frying the fishcakes

 

Ingredients - for the Paleo Pad Thai ‘Slaw’ 

2 medium courgettes, cut into thin slices, coarsely grated or spiralised (see Notes below)

3 medium carrots, cut into thin slices, coarsely grated or spiralised (see Notes below)

200g frozen baby broad beans, thawed and shelled (about 120g prepared weight)

1 tbsp chopped fresh chives

1 tbsp raw organic sesame seeds

        

Ingredients - for the dressing

40 ml fresh lime juice

40 g raw organic cashew nut butter

1 tbsp tamari (I used Clearspring)

40 ml Co Yo natural coconut milk yogurt

1-2 drops organic liquid stevia

 

Ingredients - to serve

1 tsp raw sesame seeds

coriander leaves and/or micro leaves

 

Instructions - to make the fishcakes

Put all the fishcake ingredients, except the ground almonds, into a food processor and pulse together until well blended. N.B. Be careful not to over-process - you want the mixture to retain a little of its chunky texture rather than turn into a mushy fish paste! 

Tip the fishcake mixture into a large bowl and add just enough of the ground almonds to ensure that it will hold together sufficiently well to form into fishcakes. The final mixture may still feel a little wet but should be easy enough to shape in your hands and will firm up in the refrigerator prior to cooking.

Divide into 8 fishcakes about 2.5 cm / 1 inch thick (weighing approximately 125g each). Transfer to a large plate, cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Heat the coconut oil in a large, non-stick frying pan over a medium/high heat until the surface of the oil starts to shimmer (don’t allow it to smoke!). Cook the fishcakes for 3 minutes until crisp and golden on the underside, then flip them over and cook on the other side for another 3 minutes.

Serve with Pad Thai ‘Slaw’ and a squeeze of fresh lime juice.

 

Instructions - for the Paleo Pad Thai ‘Slaw’

Using a small hand whisk, combine all dressing ingredients together in a small bowl or cup until you have a smooth dressing that’s of pouring consistency.

To quickly defrost and remove the broad beans from their pods. Weigh out the frozen broad beans into a heatproof bowl or jug. Bring a kettle of water to the boil and pour over the beans. Let stand for 3-5 minutes. When the water has cooled down pop the tender, bright green beans out of their thick, leathery skins by squeezing gently between two fingers. 

In a large bowl, combine courgette, carrots and shelled broad beans. Add the chopped chives and sesame seeds, mix together gently and set aside.

Just before serving, pour over the dressing and gently toss all the ingredients together until the vegetables are evenly coated.

Transfer to plates and top with a sprinkling of sesame seeds, chopped coriander and/or micro leaves. 

Serve with either Spicy Salmon Fishcakes or Fried Halloumi and Toasted Cashews (see below).

The vegetarian option: Fried Halloumi and Toasted Cashews

The vegetarian option: Fried Halloumi and Toasted Cashews

Instructions to make Fried Halloumi & Toasted Cashews With Paleo Pad Thai 'Slaw' (V)

Firstly, toast the cashews in a large frying pan over a medium heat for about 5 minutes or until turning pale gold, then take off the heat and set aside. 

Cut the halloumi into 1 cm thick slices. Heat some coconut oil or olive oil in a pan until hot, then fry the halloumi for just 1-2 minutes on each side until golden and crispy around the edges. 

Arrange the Paleo Pad Thai ‘Slaw’ on 4 serving plates, top with the toasted cashews, sesame seeds and coriander leaves, then serve the fried cheese slices (3-4 per person) alongside, with wedges of fresh lime for squeezing over.

N.B. Be sure to plate-up the fried halloumi immediately after it’s cooked - it’s so much nicer warm! If you allow cooked halloumi to go cold, it will tend to become too hard and rubbery.

 

Notes

To make carrot and courgette julienne for the Paleo Pad Thai ‘Slaw’, I first cut the washed courgettes and peeled carrots in half horizontally, then finely sliced the halved vegetables vertically (on a mandolin) before using a small sharp knife to cut them into 6 cm long thin julienne strips. Coarsely grating them in a food processor would be a lot quicker!

The Paleo Pad Thai ‘Slaw’ is suitable for vegans.

 

Carbohydrate 17g Protein 66g - per serving (assuming 2 fishcakes per person)


Cheesy Sweet Potato, Cauliflower & Spinach Gratin

by Susan Smith in , ,


Want something fast, fresh and fabulous for supper tonight? This vegetarian cheesy gratin ticks all the boxes - comforting, healthy, delicious and on the table in under 45 minutes.

Although today’s recipe includes full-fat crème fraîche, cheese and sweet potatoes, let’s be clear - a Primal, low-carbohydrate / high fat diet (LCHF) does not mean eliminating carbohydrates completely or that it’s okay to gorge yourself on fatty food. In my view, Dr. Atkins was much maligned and misrepresented in this respect. It does mean that oftentimes you’ll find Primal Plate recipes are contrarian to decades of public health advice which has hoodwinked most people into believing that saturated fat - fatty meat, milk, butter and cheese - is the root cause of clogged-up arteries, high cholesterol, heart attacks and obesity. Truth is, there’s never been a shred of reliable scientific evidence that can demonstrate saturated fat is harmful to human health. In fact, numerous scientific studies show the opposite to be true. The real culprit for the type 2 diabetes epidemic and obesity crisis (which are themselves a risk factor for heart disease and stroke) is a fat-phobic society indoctrinated into believing that a healthy diet is one low in fat and high in carbohydrates (LFHC). 

This myth has been perpetuated for the past fifty years or so and it’s time we turned things around. In a nutshell: It’s not fat that makes you fat and sick, it’s sugar. 

In layman’s terms, all the carbohydrates we eat are converted by the body into a type of sugar called glucose. Glucose is fuel for the cells and is transported around the body in the bloodstream. In response to glucose in the bloodstream the pancreas secretes insulin. Without insulin, glucose stays in the bloodstream - it’s insulin that allows glucose to enter the cells (of the brain, heart, liver and muscles) to provide the energy for them to work. Or, if it’s not required for immediate use, to be converted into glycogen and stored in the liver and muscles for later. 

However, once the cells are full to the gunnels with excess glucose they become increasingly resistant to the call of insulin to open up their cell doors and let more in. When there’s nowhere for glucose to go it stays in the bloodstream and blood sugar levels stay high - a toxic situation. What follows is pancreatic panic! In a frantic attempt to get rid of excess glucose in the bloodstream, the pancreas makes even more insulin. Unfortunately excess insulin is also toxic so then the cells become even more insulin resistant. Catch 22!

Eventually the over-production of insulin will help convert the excess glucose into fat but in the meantime the glucose in the bloodstream forms a sort of sludge that blocks arteries and causes systemic inflammation - the underlying cause of multiple degenerative diseases, including heart disease and cancer. Furthermore, an excess of insulin stops the fat-burning enzyme lipase from working efficiently inside the cells, so you don’t even burn off the fat that’s been stored!  

Most human beings are genetically predisposed to insulin resistance, which worsens with age and inactivity. The solution is to stop feeding the problem with high carbohydrate food - no grains, no potato, no sugar - and to exercise more. When you’re not constantly topping-up the body with sugar and starches it can start burning fat for energy instead. Without high carb foods spiking your blood sugar, natural, healthy fat becomes your new best friend. It satiates your appetite, you feel full for longer, it stops sugar cravings and it helps make all food look and taste yummy. 

As for the shoddy science and scaremongering that aims to convince you otherwise, I’ve been on the frontline of a randomised double-blind controlled study (the ‘gold-standard’ of scientific research) when I taught a group of asthmatics the Buteyko Method in the first UK Clinical Trial funded by the National Asthma Campaign. Unfortunately, several participants reported back to me that the study was biased against Buteyko because during their reviews with research staff they had been actively encouraged to continue using their asthma medication. According to our carefully compiled records, over ninety per cent of the Buteyko group either significantly reduced or gave up their bronchodilators completely during the study. However, when the scientific paper was finally published these remarkable results were buried. True, there was much scientific gobbledygook that I wasn’t familiar with, but suffice to say it took several more years before the method was given any credence whatsoever by the NHS. Why did I expect otherwise? Like most people I never imagined that highly respected academics would stoop so low. In reality, too many vested interests - years of study potentially wasted, livelihoods at risk, research funding cut, pharma greed and charity donations threatened - is a massive incentive to keep schtum or worse, go on the offensive to protect the status quo. It’s just how egos rock n’ roll. Nobody wants to admit they’ve been complicit in giving health advice that actually destroys tens of thousands of peoples’ lives but the truth is, there’s safety in numbers and the powers that be are far more interested in self-preservation than your health and well-being.

Dr Aseem Malhotra says it best: “In my opinion a perfect storm of biased research funding, biased reporting in the media and commercial conflicts of interest have contributed to an epidemic of misinformed doctors and misinformed patients. The result is a nation of over-medicated sugar addicts who are eating and pill-popping their way to years of misery with chronic debilitating diseases and an early grave.”

After years of trial and error, I found my way through the lies, confusion, chronic illness and creeping weight gain to discover that the exact opposite of ‘conventional wisdom’ is the truth. It convinced me that eating LFHC is tantamount to death, disease and obesity by the Food Pyramid and that switching to LCHF diet stops the rot. However, if you’re overweight or unwell please don’t ‘wait and see’ how the continuing debate about fat plays out between the warring scientific community - and please don’t take my word for who’s right either. For a few short weeks, simply test out the LCHF hypothesis yourself - using Primal Plate recipes for your inspiration - to see if it works for you.   

Primal Plate is proud to play its part by translating unbiased scientific evidence into a pleasurable eating plan for life. If you want to join in, I think the quick and easy-to-make cheesy deliciousness of today’s vegetable gratin might be a very good place to start. 

Although a LCHF diet avoids white potatoes, we still eat orange-fleshed sweet potatoes because of their versatility in recipes and powerful nutritional punch. In spite of them being sweet-tasting, they have more fibre, fewer calories and less carbohydrates than white potatoes and their natural sugars are slowly released into the bloodstream, which helps ensure a balanced and regular source of energy, without the blood sugar spikes associated with fatigue and weight gain. They’re also a beautiful complementary colour to the Red Fox Leicester cheese I’ve used in the recipe!

It’s really important not to stint on the quality of crème fraîche you use for making the cheese sauce. Unlike most cheese sauces, this one isn’t thickened with flour so its success relies on the crème fraîche not breaking down during the cooking process. For a really silky-smooth, cheese sauce finish, I always recommend Rodda’s crème fraîche (available from Waitrose) because it doesn’t curdle or turn into a thin liquid when heated - this is what usually happens with lesser varieties. If you can’t find Rodda’s, Longley Farm’s crème fraîche is also a good bet.

Cheesy Sweet Potato, Cauliflower & Spinach Gratin (Serves 4) 

Ingredients

280g Leicester cheese (I use Red Fox), coarsely grated

250g crème fraîche (I use Roddas)

1 dsp Dijon mustard

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 medium orange-fleshed organic sweet potatoes, unpeeled and cut into 1-2inch chunky ‘chips’

1 medium organic cauliflower, broken into largish florets

235g organic spinach, washed

2 tbsp fresh chives, finely chopped


Instructions

Fill the bottom of a steamer with boiling water from the kettle and butter a large gratin dish.

Pre-heat the oven to 190℃ / 375℉ / Gas mark 5 

Steam the sweet potatoes in the top of the steamer, covered, for 10-12 minutes. 

Whilst the sweet potatoes are steaming, make a cheese sauce by whisking the crème fraîche, Dijon mustard and three quarters of the grated cheese together in a medium-sized saucepan set over medium heat. Keep whisking everything together until the cheese has fully melted in to a silky smooth, hot cheese sauce. Don’t let it boil. Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper then take the pan off the heat, cover and set aside. 

Using a large metal draining spoon scoop the cooked sweet potato wedges out of the top of the steamer and lay them flat in the bottom of the gratin dish. Cover and keep warm.

Add the cauliflower florets to the steamer basket and steam them, with the pan lid on, for 5-6 minutes. They need to be just cooked through, so don’t let them get too soft or soggy.

Arrange the cooked cauliflower, placing it evenly between the potato wedges in the gratin dish. 

Now pile the spinach into the steamer basket, put the lid back on and steam for 1-2 minutes until the leaves have just collapsed. Drain well then add to the sweet potatoes and cauliflower in the gratin dish spreading it out evenly. Sprinkle the chopped chives on top. 

Whilst stirring constantly, re-heat the cheese sauce to just below boiling point. Spoon over the vegetables making sure they’re all nicely coated. Finally, sprinkle over the remaining cheese and bake the gratin in a hot oven for 15 minutes. 

At the end of the cooking time switch the overhead oven grill to hot and continue to cook the gratin a little longer under the direct heat until the top is gorgeously crisp and golden. 

Serve immediately with a fresh green salad, if liked.  


Carbohydrate 43g Protein 26g - per serving


Savoury Primal Pancakes with Tomato, Cheese & Mushrooms

by Susan Smith in ,


My focus is on Valentine’s Day this week, so in terms of Primal Plate’s blog I don’t have a lot of time to rabbit-on about pancakes. However, in honour of Shrove Tuesday I have re-visited last year’s Primal Pancakes and made a few adjustments to the recipe. Namely, I’ve reduced the amount of carbs by decreasing the amount of arrowroot flour and improved my pancakes ‘flip-ability’ (is that even a word?) by increasing the amount of fat. Sometimes I think being a food blogger has an air of mad-food-scientology about it! 

Anyway, it all works. So if you’re trying to lose weight, want to eat low-carb, follow a Primal or vegetarian, gluten-free, grain-free diet, these delicious, savoury pancakes are a ‘flipping-good’ alternative to traditional wheat-based ones!

Savoury Primal Pancakes with Tomato, Cheese & Mushrooms (makes 10)

Ingredients - for the pancakes

50g organic butter (or coconut oil)    

300 ml raw whole milk or homemade organic almond milk or 50/50 filtered water & milk

4 large organic eggs                            

75g organic ground almonds            

40g Sukrin organic reduced-fat coconut flour            

15g organic arrowroot flour                        

½ tsp organic apple cider vinegar                    

½ tsp gluten-free baking powder

Extra coconut oil, for cooking

    

Ingredients - for the pancake filling and topping 

1 tbsp olive oil

230g organic button mushrooms, wiped and finely sliced

1 x 400g tin organic chopped tomatoes ( I used Mr Organic)

2 tbsp fresh basil leaves, finely sliced

1-2 drops organic liquid stevia

250g full-fat natural cottage cheese (I used Longley Farm)

75g vegetarian parmesan-style cheese, finely grated (I used Gran Moravia)

Fresh basil sprigs - for serving

 

Instructions - to make the pancakes

Put the butter (or coconut oil) in a small saucepan and set over a very low heat until just melted.

Then, place all the ingredients for the batter into a blender and blend thoroughly until it is smooth and the consistency of pouring cream.

Heat a 20cm (8 inch) non-stick pancake pan over a medium heat until it is hot.

Add a smidgeon of coconut oil to the pan, then quickly ladle - or pour - just enough of the batter into the pan to coat the base thinly (¼ US Cup - about 60 -70ml should do it). Ideally, you’d be blessed by being naturally ambidextrous at this point - swiftly pouring the batter into the frying pan with one hand whilst simultaneously tilting and turning the pan to ensure it levels out evenly with the other. N.B. the pancakes should be as thin as possible.

Fry over a medium heat for about 2 minutes without moving. Then, using a flat-bladed non-stick spatula, flip the pancake over and cook for a further 1 minute. 

Slide each pancake onto a large flat plate and repeat this process until all the batter has been used to make 10 pancakes.

Instructions - to make the filling

Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the mushrooms until tender

Add the tomatoes and basil, stir well and continue to cook uncovered on a low heat until the mixture has reduced down to a thick puree.

Take the pan off the heat and season the mixture to taste with sea salt and freshly ground pepper - adding 1-2 drop of liquid stevia if the tomatoes taste too acidic.

Add the cottage cheese and 25g parmesan-style cheese then stir everything together until thoroughly combined.

Instructions to assemble the pancakes and cook

Pre-heat the oven to 190℃ / 375℉ / Gas mark 5

Lay one of the pancakes flat on a work surface with the side that was cooked last uppermost (best looking side underneath). Spoon a large (heaped) tablespoon of the filling along the bottom edge then roll the pancake up into a cigar shape and place into a large gratin dish with the loose edge facing downwards (so it can’t unfurl). 

Fill the rest of the pancakes in the same way, until all the mixture is used, laying each pancake snugly side by side in the dish.

Sprinkle with the remaining 50g parmesan-style cheese and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until piping hot and golden brown on top. 

Garnish with a sprig of basil and serve immediately with a crisp green salad. 

 

Carbohydrate 6g Protein 11g - per pancake (allow 2 pancakes per serving)


Crumble-topped Mince Pies

by Susan Smith in ,


Healthy, Primal, vegetarian mince pies (or vegan, if you substitute coconut oil for butter) without added sugar, wheat flour or other grains? Yes please! 

This recipe is my adaptation of an original recipe I found in Good Food Magazine, Christmas 2007. However, Primal Plate gluten-free mince pies are made with tiger nut and almond flour pastry encasing dollops of delicious homemade mincemeat that has no sugar or fat added. So in spite of them tasting like the best mince pies you’ve ever eaten, you can have all of the pleasure with none of the guilt. I should warn you, even if you’re stuffed to the gunnels with other Christmas food, you’re still going to want to find room for more when you espy these sweet delights! 

But that’s okay, because you can’t really ‘fall off the wagon’ when you’re substituting nutritious, low-carb ingredients for grain flour and only using half the pastry of normal mince pies! Plus, these Crumble-Topped Mince Pies are so meltingly delicious, and look so winter wonderland with their crunchy ‘snow-capped’ topping, that it just won’t seem right to let Christmas day pass you by without one!

They disappear fast in our house, so blogging the recipe seemed sort of compulsory in the run up to Christmas - my fella thinks that eating at least two a day will help keep you in the festive spirit! They’re a much lighter and healthier alternative to the ‘heavy-weights’ found stacked on supermarket shelves (since last September!) and those endorsed by baking traditionalists, and happily, given the demand by my nearest and dearest, they are also ridiculously easy to make. 

Essentially, the mincemeat and the tiger nut pastry both only need a quick ‘whizz’ in a food processor and they’re made. And, since the mince pies can conveniently be cut, pre-assembled and frozen in their tins, you can always have a batch 'at the ready’ for when you need them. Once defrosted, making the crumble and topping the pies takes less than 5 minutes. 

If you like mince pies, these extra special mince pies can’t fail to impress. You won’t like them...you’ll love them! 

Crumble-topped Mince Pies (V)

Ingredients - for the mince pies

1 medium/large ripe banana

100g organic raisins

100g organic sultanas

100g organic currants

50g organic dried cranberries, no added sugar

60g Medjool dates (about 3), stoned and chopped                        

50g flaked almonds

Finely grated zest of 1 organic orange, juice of ½ orange

25g Sukrin Gold

½ tsp grated cinnamon                        

½ tsp ground nutmeg                            

½ tsp ground ginger                            

3 tbsp brandy

 

Ingredients - for the pastry

125g unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small cubes + a little extra for greasing (or to convert to vegan use coconut oil)

150g organic tiger nut flour

50g Sukrin reduced-fat organic almond flour

1 tbsp Sukrin icing sugar

Finely grated zest of 1 organic orange

1tbsp cold water

 

Ingredients - for the crumble topping

25g butter, melted (or use coconut oil if you don’t eat dairy)

25g organic ground almonds

25g flaked almonds

¼ tsp ground cinnamon

25g Sukrin Gold

 

To serve

A little Sukrin icing sugar

 

Instructions - to make the mincemeat

Simply mix everything together in a food processor until well combined and the texture of mincemeat. Done!

 

Instructions - to make the pastry

Put the tiger nut flour, almond flour, butter (or coconut oil), icing sugar and orange zest into the bowl of a food processor and whizz together until the mixture starts to clump together.

Add the tablespoon of water and briefly whizz again.

Tip the mixture out onto a sheet of non-stick (parchment) paper. Press it together into a ball, flatten into a disc with the palm of your hand then cover with another piece of non-stick pastry. 

Pre-heat the oven to 180℃ / 350℉ / Gas mark 4. Lightly grease a shallow bun tin.

Roll the dough out between the two sheets of non-stick baking parchment to a 2-3mm thickness. Using a 7½ cm (3 inch) fluted round cutter, stamp out discs from the pastry. Gently place the discs of pastry into each section of the bun tin. 

Press any pastry trimmings back together, re-roll and continue cutting out more discs until you have as many pastry cases as you want, or the pastry is used up - this quantity of pastry dough should make about 16 mince pies. 

Fill each pastry shell with 1 heaped teaspoon mincemeat and spread out to smooth.

At this point, the mince pies can be frozen, uncooked in trays for up to 1 month    

 

Instructions for the crumble-topping

When you’re ready to cook the mince pies, melt the butter over a low heat, allow to cool slightly, then combine all the crumble ingredients in a small bowl and sprinkle a little on the top of each mince pie. 

Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for about 15 minutes, or until the pastry is cooked and golden brown. 

Cool in the tin(s) for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire cooling tray. 

Sift a little Sukrin icing sugar over the top of the mince pies before serving.

 

Notes

The mincemeat recipe will make about 36 mince pies. Because it doesn’t contain any sugar, it won’t keep like ordinary mincemeat. However, it can be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to a week.  

These mince pies are good eaten warm or cold. To re-heat them after baking, simply warm them in a pre-heated oven at 180℃ for 5 minutes. Don’t forget to dust with a little extra Sukrin icing sugar before serving, as any previously sprinkled on top of the mince pies dissolves in the heat of the oven second time around!

 

Carbohydrate 14g Protein 3g - per mince pie


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


Speedy Seedy No-Grain Soda Bread

by Susan Smith in ,


No grains, no dairy, no eggs, no yeast…no kidding! Inspired by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Seedy Rye Soda Bread in the River Cottage Light and Easy cookbook this super-speedy, seedy bread is my Paleo/Primal-friendly grain-free ‘take’ on Hugh’s original recipe. I’m loving the fact that you can knock it up in about 15 minutes then bake and eat it within the hour. 

Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall just happens to be my man of the moment in more ways than one. Pioneering war on waste and taking to task the supermarket's ridiculous stance on wonky veg, he is also a brilliant, down-to-earth, imaginative chef that seriously cares about the environment and sustainability. I salute you sir!

For this blog post, my job was to figure out which no-grain flour alternatives would emulate River Cottage’s inspirational rye-based bread i.e. to create a dense, semi-sweet, almost malty, rye-tasting soda bread, without the rye flour or honey that the original recipe calls for. I think I’ve done it! With the help of Sukrin and their fantastic range of alternative cold-pressed, fat-reduced nut and seed flours (I particularly like the cold-pressed sesame flour in this recipe for it’s distinctive depth of flavour), I was fully equipped and ready to go.  

This nutty tasting bread is deliciously satisfying, can be eaten in the context of either sweet or savoury, and is so quick and easy to make I’ve ended up making 4 loaves in the past 5 days! 

Speedy Seedy No-Grain Soda Bread (makes 1 small loaf - serves 6)

Ingredients - dry

20g organic pumpkin seeds

20g organic sunflower seeds

20g organic sesame seeds

20g organic golden linseeds

1 tbsp organic chia seeds

150g organic ground almonds

50g Sukrin sesame flour  

50g fine milled organic tiger nut flour

20g Sukrin reduced-fat organic almond flour plus a little extra for dusting the finished loaf

½ tsp sea salt

1½ tsp baking soda

 

To finish the loaf before baking

1 tsp seeds - for sprinkling

1 tsp Sukrin almond flour, for dusting

 

Ingredients - wet

100ml apple juice (I used Coldpress)

1 tsp raw cider vinegar

50ml water

2 tbsp avocado oil 

Instructions

Pre-heat the oven to 200℃ (180℃ fan-assisted) 

Put all the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl and, using a fork, mix everything together really well.

In a jug, whisk together the wet ingredients. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, pour the liquid into the dry ingredients and quickly mix everything together with a fork.

Allow the mixture to stand for 1-2 minutes, during which time the chia seeds will help thicken out the mixture. 

With the help of a spatula, tip the sticky but malleable dough onto a sheet of non-stick (parchment) paper and, using both hands, form into an approximate 15cm / 6” round. Slide or lift the shaped bread, still sat on its parchment paper, straight onto a baking tray.

Make a deep cross in the bread round (cutting at least halfway down through the dough) then sprinkle a teaspoon of extra seeds on top and lightly dust with a little more almond flour. 

Bake for 35-40 minutes in the pre-heated oven, or until a cocktail stick inserted in the centre comes out clean and the crust is a really dark brown.

Cool on a wire rack. Tuck in!

Top left: Make a well in the centre of the combined dry ingredients, then pour in the combined wet ingredients. Top right: Mix everything together with a fork. Bottom left: After shaping, score a cross in the dough. Bottom right: Sprinkle with extra seeds and dust with sifted almond flour before baking.

Top left: Make a well in the centre of the combined dry ingredients, then pour in the combined wet ingredients. Top right: Mix everything together with a fork. Bottom left: After shaping, score a cross in the dough. Bottom right: Sprinkle with extra seeds and dust with sifted almond flour before baking.

Notes

I regularly purchase organic nuts and seeds online (more availability and at a better price than most supermarkets) These are my go-to suppliers: Healthy SuppliesReal Foods; Red23; and, for tiger nuts, Na'vi Organics.

This bread will keep for up to 3 days in an airtight container. After a couple of days, it can be used to make croutons or made into breadcrumbs for coating. 

If you want a nutritious, no-hassle, low-carb, home-baked bread for breakfast, simply measure out all the dry ingredients into a bowl and the wet ingredients into a jug the evening before, then cover with cling film. Next day, combine everything together and bake…good morning Primal Pronto!

 

Carbohydrate 15g Protein 12g - per serving

Speedy Seedy No-Grain Soda Bread is delicious served simply with lashings of organic butter.

Speedy Seedy No-Grain Soda Bread is delicious served simply with lashings of organic butter.


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


Primal Pronto Energy Bars

by Susan Smith in ,


Fast, no-bake Primal Pronto Energy Bars will keep everyone coming back for more. And why not? Full of energy-boosting nutrients and resistant starch, these grain-free, gluten-free, naturally sweet nibbles can be enjoyed at any time you feel yourself flagging, or when you just fancy something sweet to eat, because they don’t contain refined sugar. 

Great for kids as a Bonfire Night treat, to take on long autumnal walks or as a pre or post-workout snack, these energy bars will revive and sustain you with delicious fudgy, chocolatey goodness.

With only 5 ingredients, they should only take about 15 minutes to bring together (plus 30 minutes to chill). But be warned, they’re more-ishly yummy and can disappear faster than you can make them! 

Primal Pronto Energy Bars (makes 12)

50g coconut oil

150g organic Medjool dates, stoned weight (about 8 dates)

150g milled tiger nuts

50g raw organic cacao powder

1 tbsp organic pure vanilla essence

 

Instructions

Boil a kettle of clean water.

Remove the stones from the dates then put them in a small heavy based saucepan with enough boiling water from the kettle just to cover. On the hob, bring the water back to the boil then reduce the heat to very low and simmer the dates for 5 minutes to soften. Drain well.

Place the coconut oil in a small saucepan over a low heat until just melted, take off the heat and allow to cool slightly.

Put the softened dates, milled tiger nut flour, cacao powder, vanilla essence and coconut oil into a blender or food processor and process until all the ingredients are fully combined.

Transfer the mixture into a shallow dish or baking tin, pressing it down well and spreading it out evenly. Smooth the surface with a flat edge spatula (or the back of a metal spoon) and mark into even pieces. 

Put the mixture into the freezer for 30 minutes, then refrigerate until you’re ready to serve.

 

Notes

Cut into small squares and decorated with edible flowers or flower petals these make elegant petits fours to serve with an espresso coffee as a grand finale to a special meal. 

I used a small Waitrose (24.5cm x 17.5cm / 9½ x 7”) non-stick baking tray, which was the perfect size for these energy bars.

 

Carbohydrate 19g Protein 2g

Although they're an ideal portable outdoor snack, they're also a real after-dinner treat served with coffee. 

Although they're an ideal portable outdoor snack, they're also a real after-dinner treat served with coffee. 


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


Grilled Hake in Tomato Herb Broth with Vegetable Tagliolini

by Susan Smith in ,


Its been said that ignorance is bliss. And yes, in the context of being innocent and unaware (like a child at play), or entering that meditative space of ‘no thought’ (as a conscious adult), your bliss is unhindered by the external reality that surrounds you. I wish I could be in that state of being more often!

The enormity of the problem with agribusiness - the mass torture and slaughter of animals and the pollution and degradation of the environment - is what is, at this point in history. But thinking about it and seeing its terrible effects on social media, sickens me. When I first started to write this food blog I simply wanted to help shift the Primal/Paleo fraternity away from their avid consumption of meat by inspiring them to eat more vegetarian meals. I would even argue that the Primal/Paleo diet was not primarily meat-based but rather a preponderance of fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds…and that termites were probably our ancestors main source of animal protein.    

I didn't expect to subsequently be confronted with compelling evidence for not eating fish too. Stupid of me. Ego runs humanity and the collective ego is culturally conditioned into believing that, as ‘masters of the universe’, human beings have a divine right to subjugate all of nature to its will. Apparently unstoppable, greed and exploitation knows no bounds. Whilst painfully aware that overfishing currently threatens many species of fish and the importance of sustainability, I hadn’t bargained for what is really going on under the sea

It’s not that I am intrinsically opposed to eating meat or fish. It really does depend on the context. I still have to buy and prepare organic free-range chicken and pork and line-caught tuna for my cat Sushi to eat (it is a biological necessity for cats to eat meat) and, if I had the skills to skin and gut a fresh road kill, we’d probably eat that too. But ‘growing’ meat in appalling conditions on factory farms, polluting the rivers and oceans with animal excrement, cutting down acres of rain forest to grow grain for livestock to feed the privileged few whilst millions starve, to use man-made devices to harm and kill all the creatures under the sea is both heartbreaking and unnecessary. 

Already eighty-five per cent vegetarian, there’s a part of me that would like to be vegan. I just know my body wouldn't be happy with the choice. I don’t eat meat on compassionate grounds. I can’t eat grains because I’ve fully experienced their inflammatory effect in my body. I try to avoid potatoes (although I only have personal anecdotal evidence that they’re not good for me) as well as legumes (dried beans, chickpeas, lentils etc.) because they contain anti-nutrients. Instead I rely on plenty of fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds, vegetarian cheese, organic free-range eggs, raw milk from grass-fed cows and what hitherto I thought was sustainably-sourced wild or organic fish for a healthy, low-carb, protein-packed diet. However, fish will be off the menu if eating it means I’m inadvertently supporting the super-trawler industrialised version of fishing.

I’ve asked my fabulous fishmonger Terry (contact: fishinnotts@hotmail.com), who always fetches the best of ‘today’s catch’ directly from the docks and delivers it straight to my door, if he can reassure me that the fish I’m buying is responsibly and sustainably caught. Unfortunately, sustainability won’t make overfishing disappear - to solve that problem, we all need to eat less fish. Supporting the work of organisations like Greenpeace and Compassion In World Farming also helps keep food shoppers informed. Greenpeace have named Marks & Spencer as being the best UK supermarket to buy fish from. However, some fisheries do get the MSC logo for just ‘working towards’ sustainable fishing rather than actually fishing sustainably! If you’re in any doubt, don’t buy.

So now you know that eating fish is not inconsequential, I want to mindfully share with you this tasty recipe for Grilled Hake in a Tomato Herb Broth with Vegetable Tagliolini. It is colourful, it is delicious, it is low carb. It is a beautiful looking, healthy, nutritious dish - everything that Primal Plate wants to promote for a healthier you - but is that enough?

If you think it is, Grilled Hake in Tomato Herb Broth with Vegetable Tagliolini is one of the best ways I know to healthily celebrate the fact that there are still fish left in the sea for us to eat and enjoy. I hope it doesn’t prove to be my last fishy hurrah on Primal Plate’s blog. The jury’s still out.  

Grilled Hake in Tomato Herb Broth with Vegetable Tagliolini (Serves 4)

Ingredients

4 x 200g thick, sustainably sourced (MSC) hake fillets, skin-on, pin-boned & descaled

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

A little melted butter - for brushing 

100ml white wine    

200ml water

1 dsp Marigold organic vegetable bouillon powder

2 dsp Clearspring tamari soy sauce

100g unsalted butter, chilled

1 tsp arrowroot

2 medium carrots

2 medium courgettes

2 medium leeks

2 vine-ripened tomatoes, skinned, de-seeded and finely diced

1 heaped tbsp finely chopped coriander

 

Instructions

For the grilled hake: put the fish, skin-side down, on a large shallow dish or plate and sprinkle with sea salt. Set aside for 30 minutes. 

For the broth: put the water, wine, bouillon powder and soy sauce into a pan and boil rapidly until it has reduced by a third. Strain through a fine sieve into a clean pan and set aside. 

Rinse the salt off the fish and dry the fillets on kitchen paper. Brush each piece on both sides with melted butter and put skin-side up on a greased baking tray. Season the skin with sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Cover lightly with cling film and set aside.

To prepare the vegetables: use only the white part of the leek, peel the carrot, trim the courgette, then spiralise the courgette and carrot into tagliolini - alternatively, use a sharp knife or mandolin to cut the vegetables down lengthways before then slicing again with a sharp knife into thin strips.  

Preheat the grill to high. 

Meanwhile, in a small bowl or mug, combine 1 tsp. arrowroot powder and 1 dsp. water to make a thin slurry. Re-heat the broth to boiling point then add a spoonful of the hot buttery broth into the arrowroot paste and combine well. Tip the arrowroot mixture back into the saucepan whilst stirring continuously. Allow the broth to cook on a very low heat until it thickens.

Remove the cling film and grill the hake for 8 minutes on one side only.

Whilst the hake is grilling, gradually whisk 75g chilled butter, cut into small cubes, into the hot broth to make a silky smooth sauce. Keep warm.

Just before the fish is ready, melt the reserved 25g butter in a frying pan. Stir-fry the prepared vegetables until just softened but still crisp. Season to taste. 

Remove the cooked hake from the grill and allow to rest for a minute or two. Bring the broth back to just below boiling point and add the finely diced tomatoes and chopped coriander leaf. 

Serve the fish on a nest of vegetable tagliolini with the tomato herb broth spooned round.  

 

Notes

Don’t put the fish too close to the heat source - about 15cm (6”) away from the grill will allow the fish to cook through perfectly without scorching the skin.

 

Carbohydrate 13g Protein 42g per serving


Sweet Potato, Cheese & Chilli Muffins

by Susan Smith in , , , ,


I like Jamie Oliver's recipe and I like Rose Elliot's recipe... but which is better?!

Today’s blog post for Sweet Potato, Cheese & Chilli Muffins was inspired by both and as both are a frequent source of reference for me, I take my hat off to each of them for being the innovative and inspiring food crusaders that they are. Nevertheless, I still think Primal Plate can legitimately take credit for these incredibly tasty, savoury muffins. Let me explain.

I first made Rose Elliot’s Cheese & Sun-Blush Tomato Muffins, featured in her book Vegetarian Supercook, about ten years ago, then last week I was watching Jamie’s Super Food programme on Channel 4 and was again reminded how useful Rose Elliot’s original recipe was for a low-carb, gluten-free lifestyle because it didn’t contain wheat flour. On the other hand, I really liked Jamie’s idea for Sweet Potato Muffins with a chilli ‘kick’, but cannot agree that wheat, or any other grain qualifies as super food.

“Cutting-edge research, for example, has revealed that consumption of modern wheat [the only sort of wheat most people are likely to encounter in their entire lifetime] is the first step in triggering autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis.” says Dr. William Davis, author of Wheat Belly. And, “Wheat raises blood sugar higher than nearly all other foods, including table sugar and many candy bars”.

And for those who think that a gluten-free diet is the answer he advises: “The few foods that increase blood sugar higher than even wheat include rice flour, cornstarch, tapioca starch and potato flour—the most common ingredients used in gluten-free foods, which leads to weight gain, diabetes, cataracts, arthritis, cancer, dementia, heart disease and growing belly fat. This is why many celiac patients who say goodbye to wheat but turn to gluten-free foods become fat and diabetic. Gluten-free foods as they are currently manufactured are very poor substitutes for wheat flour.” For more information visit the Wheat Belly Blog.  And, here's a list of recommended alternative flours for baking.
 
You live and learn! Perhaps it was the tapioca flour in my Primal Naan Bread, which we ate four times in quick succession whilst I was developing the recipe that caused me to gain two pounds in weight in one week (thankfully now lost again)! As with previous health warnings on this food blog, the message is this: Anyone who consumes gluten-free foods, including my gluten-free naan, and/or other baked goods made with healthier sugar/flour substitutes, should still regard them as an occasional indulgence.

Anyway, I digress because there are no bad things listed in the ingredients for these quick, easy-to-make, gluten-free Sweet Potato Cheese & Chilli Muffins. Going back to Rose’s and Jamie’s recipes, the only jar of sun-blush tomatoes that I had in my food cupboard had a sell-by date of 2013 (must have a clear-out!) so I decided to substitute the missing tomatoes with Jamie’s idea for sweet potato and chilli - albeit not weight for weight. Both their recipes included cottage cheese (in massively varying amounts) but to be honest, by the time I’ve changed everything around to make my recipe Primal (grain-free) and/or added or subtracted ingredients and amounts for a different flavour or texture, I always end up forewarning my family that it is by no means certain the end result will be something good for us to eat! On this occasion, I knew about half-way through the cooking time we had a definite ‘winner for dinner’ by the way my muffins were rising admirably to the challenge. High-five me!

Light, puffy and protein-packed these Sweet Potato, Cheese & Chilli Muffins truly are a super delicious super-food for you to enjoy at any time. Two muffins per person served with a bowl of hot soup makes for a simple but filling lunch or supper. Eat them for breakfast and they’ll keep you going until lunchtime. Perfect for picnics (a bit of an obsession of mine as a wedding photographer’s assistant that often needs to pack up healthy food for Sarah and I to eat on-the-move) or as a nutritious snack, they’re sustaining, easy to transport and can be eaten one-handed (important for all busy multi-taskers).   

Taking the best from Jamie and Rose, I reckon I’ve trumped both with this muffin recipe. Cook up a batch this weekend and see if you don't agree!

Sweet Potato, Cheese & Chilli Muffins

Ingredients (Makes 9)

225g sweet potato (approximately 190g peeled weight)                    

2 tbsp fresh chives, finely chopped

2 fresh red chillies, 1 finely chopped, 1 finely sliced            

5 large organic free-range eggs, lightly beaten

250g cottage cheese (can be low-fat if you prefer)

100g ground almonds                                        

50g coconut flour 

50g vegetarian parmesan-style cheese, finely grated

1 tsp baking powder

60ml milk (or water)

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper                 

2 tbsp sunflower seeds

 

Instructions

Preheat the oven to Preheat oven to 180°C / 350°F / Gas mark 4.

Line a muffin tin with 9 medium-sized (cup-cake sized) paper cases.
 
Peel the sweet potato and coarsely grate into a large bowl. Add the cottage cheese to the bowl with all but 15g of the grated ‘parmesan’ cheese, the chopped chilli and chives, coconut flour, ground almonds, baking powder, beaten eggs and milk.

Mix together with a fork until everything is nicely combined then season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Evenly divide the mixture between the muffin cases (about 105 grams per muffin) - spooning it into the cases until they’re three-quarters full. Scatter each muffin with the reserved cheese, then sprinkle over the sunflower seeds and arrange 2-3 thin slivers of chilli on top.

Bake for 35 minutes or until set, risen & golden brown.

Served warm = totally yum!

 

Notes

Everyone will enjoy these savoury muffins straight from the oven - just allow them to cool down for about 5 minutes before serving. They’re also surprisingly good cold and will keep for a couple of days in an airtight container stored in the fridge.

Unfortunately, no one seems to sell non-stick baking parchment muffin liners. I certainly don’t fancy spraying the inside of my paper cases with commercial non-stick baking spray (processed oils are not good to eat) but you can make your own non-stick cases by cutting out 12½cm (5 inch) squares of parchment paper and pressing them down into your muffin mould with the aid of a small measuring cup. You can also buy non-stick silicon muffin moulds.

On this occasion I simply opted for baking my muffins in greaseproof paper cases and eating them directly out of their cases with a spoon - using it to scrape off the last crumbs of muffin that were frustratingly ‘glued' to the paper.  

Carbohydrate 9g Protein 14g - per muffin


Vegetarian Sausages, Creamy Cauliflower Mash and Red Wine & Onion Gravy

by Susan Smith in , , ,


The Brits love sausages. Grilled or fried to perfection, and piled on top of creamy ‘mash’ and slathered in onion gravy, or put to bed in a soft pillowy bread roll with tomato ketchup - sausages taste great! As a teenager, I certainly thought so. Every Sunday night a crowd of us would leave our church youth club and walk into town to catch the bus home. There was a burger stand next to my bus stop that sold what we thought were the most delicious hot sausage ‘cobs’  (a Northern English word for bread rolls) with HP sauce. Myself and my boyfriend, who always walked me to my bus stop before crossing town to catch his own bus home, would shelter together in a shop doorway, like young lovers do, to eat our late night feast before saying a long and wistful goodbye prior to my return to weekly boarding school. My father too always prided himself on buying ‘proper’ fresh sausages from a traditional butcher and would travel 25 miles across the county of Nottinghamshire for the privilege. Whilst nothing like the mass-produced muck that you find on today’s supermarket chiller shelves, my dad probably didn’t realise that sausages per se are one of the oldest processed foods in history and, despite their reputation for tasting good, most sausage-making is almost certainly best done behind closed doors!

Although sausages are currently making a comeback with the consumption of them soaring, producers bulk out their sausages with scraps, fat, cereal, chemical preservatives and water. In my view, it’s high time for a sausage re-think. I don’t want sausages packed out with cereal and other nasties and I don’t want to cause farm animals immeasurable suffering just so I can eat them. Notwithstanding the risks to our health, if you’re a pig, any mention of sausage is never going to be a good idea!

The highlight of many a British BBQ, a cooked English breakfast, or a child’s favourite meal of sausage and baked beans, I think it is perhaps more the walk down memory lane that’s responsible for our adult sausage cravings, rather than the reality of what they are and where they come from. But there is a kinder and healthier way to satisfy our desire.

Today’s blog post features no ordinary ‘bangers and mash’. It is a no-meat, grain-free, potato-free, alternative to this great British staple, which is nonetheless every bit as comforting and tasty as the original and, most importantly, looks just like people think ‘sausage and mash’ should!

For taste and texture these cheesy veggie sausages are as close to their meat counterparts as ‘damn it’ is to swearing! Plus, they cook like a dream (see note below) because they don’t spit and splutter like ‘bangers’ do. Fabulous with low-carb creamy cauliflower mash and served with a deeply satisfying vegetarian red wine and onion gravy, it is the best transition to autumnal comfort food that you could ever hope for. 

Vegetarian Sausages (Makes 12 large sausages - allow 2 sausages per serving)

Ingredients

600g vegetarian Lancashire cheese, crumbled or grated (I coarsely grated mine in a food processor)

4 large spring onions, finely chopped

165g organic ground almonds

20g organic milled flaxseed

15g green banana flour

1 tbsp Marigold organic bouillon powder

2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped

2 tbsp fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

3 large organic eggs, lightly beaten 

Sea salt (about 1½ tsp) and freshly ground black pepper (about ¾ tsp)

Olive oil - for frying

 

Instructions

Put the grated cheese, spring onions, ground almonds, ground flaxseed, banana flour, bouillon powder and herbs into a large mixing bowl and mix everything together well. 

Add the beaten eggs and a generous amount of seasoning, then using a fork or your hand bring the mixture together so it binds into a soft cheesy dough-like consistency. 

Cover the bowl with cling film and set aside to chill in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.

When the sausage mixture is thoroughly chilled, form into 12 large sausages - about 7.5cm (3”) long, weighing approximately 85g each.

Pour a large glug of olive oil into a large non-stick frying pan and set it over a high heat until the oil is really hot. When the surface of the oil starts to shimmer shallow-fry the sausages until deep golden brown and crispy on all sides, about 5-6 minutes. Drain the cooked sausages on paper kitchen paper. 

Serve hot with the creamy cauliflower mash, red wine & onion gravy and peas for a low-carb, vegetarian ‘twist’ on a favourite British classic. 

 

Red Wine & Onion Gravy (Serves 4)

Ingredients

1 tbsp olive oil

2 large onions, finely chopped

1 tsp coconut palm sugar

1 tbsp green banana flour

200ml vegetable stock, made with 1dsp Marigold organic vegetable bouillon powder

200ml red wine

1 tbsp Clearspring tamari (soy sauce)

1 fresh bay leaf

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

 

Instructions

Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large pan. Add the onion and coconut palm sugar to the pan, then cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 4 minutes or until beginning to brown. Reduce the heat to medium/low and continue to cook with the pan lid on for another 15 minutes, stirring from time to time, until the onion is deep golden brown.

Add the banana flour and stir over the heat for another minute to incorporate, then gradually stir in the stock and wine. 

Bring to the boil, stirring continuously until the sauce has thickened, then turn the heat back down to low.

Add the tamari and taste check. Season with a very little sea salt (only if you think it needs it) and some freshly ground pepper 

Add the bay leaf (or thyme sprig) and gently simmer for another 20 minutes. Remove the bay leaf.

Serve this intensely flavoursome gravy really hot with sausages and other vegetarian savoury dishes. 

 

Creamy Cauliflower Mash (Serves 4)

Ingredients

1 large head of cauliflower, trimmed and cut into florets

1 fresh bay leaf

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

Generous pinch of freshly grated nutmeg 

Sea salt and freshly grated black pepper

 

Instructions

Boil a kettle of water.

Place the cauliflower in the top half of a steamer with the bay leaf tucked in-between the florets. 

Pour the boiling water from the kettle into the bottom half of the steamer, add some sea salt then bring back to the boil. Steam the cauliflower with the pan lid on for about 8 minutes, until it is cooked through.

Tip or spoon the cauliflower into a large bowl and allow it to cool down for a couple of minutes - this will let the steam evaporate and make for a drier mash. Remove the bay leaf. 

Using a stick blender or food processor, whizz the cauliflower into a rough puree. Add the salt, pepper, nutmeg and cream cheese then briefly process again into a creamy mash consistency.

Put the cauliflower mash into a clean pan and gently re-heat, stirring from time to time so it doesn’t catch on the bottom of the pan. 

Serve hot as a delicious low-carb alternative to mashed potato.   

 

Notes

Keep the formed ‘sausages’ really cold (in a refrigerator) until you’re ready to start cooking them. This will ensure that they stay sausage-shaped in the cooking process i.e. cook to a crispy exterior before the cheese gets a chance to melt and they become misshapen. For the same reason, it is important not to overcrowd the pan because this lowers the temperature of the oil. You want your sausages to fry quickly in the hot oil, not semi-steam, which can cause them to ‘squidge' out of shape as you’re turning them over in the pan (also causing them to absorb more oil).  

The uncooked sausage mixture will keep for several days in a refrigerator. With this recipe being hot-off-the-press I haven’t tried freezing it yet but I think that would probably work too.

If it looks like a sausage, tastes like a sausage and behaves like a sausage it probably IS going to be mistaken for a non-vegetarian sausage! Apart from the difference in colour when you bite into them (pale gold cheese colour rather than cooked-meat-grey) I’d defy anyone to distinguish the difference between these veggie sausages and meat ones, especially when cold. Cooked leftovers, eaten next day straight from the fridge, still had their crispy exterior intact and tasted so ‘porky’ I was genuinely gob-smacked! Which means I’ve also developed a brand new picnic food to go, which is an absolute god-send for when Sarah and I are doing full-day weddings on the move #happy

If you want a smooth gravy i.e. without onion bits,  strain through a fine sieve into a clean pan before re-heating and serving.

If you think the finished gravy is a little too thick just add more water to thin it out to your liking.

I used steamed cauliflower to create a creamy ‘mash’ that’s very similar to - albeit a lighter, low-carb version of - mashed potatoes. Sweet potatoes, carrots, celeriac, swedes, parsnips and turnips - either alone or in combination - all make a good alternative to potato mash. Just be wary of stacking up the carbohydrates when you eat the sweeter root vegetables i.e. parsnips and sweet potatoes.

 

Carbohydrates 11g Protein 40g - 2 sausages per serving

Carbohydrates 13g Protein 1g - per serving of gravy

Carbohydrates 12g Protein 6g - per serving of creamy cauliflower mash


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)


Blueberry & Coriander Seed Muffins

by Susan Smith in ,


It is my twenty-second wedding anniversary today and there’s one food-related delight, baked in honour of my husband, that I want to share with you. After a miserably cold May and start to June, I’d been hoping that the lovely warm weather we enjoyed in April wasn’t the beginning and end of our summer because I’d planned for us to start our special day with a laid-back, leisurely breakfast of Blueberry and Coriander Seed Muffins, eaten ‘al fresco’ in the sunshine, with several delicious cappuccinos. Luckily for me, John is not only the best of husbands and the best barista in North Nottinghamshire, we also woke up to a gloriously sunny day! 

Whilst blueberries are available all year round, the start of the season for British blueberries is June (lasting through till September) so they’re bang-on time for our morning celebration. What could be healthier than field-fresh fruits so chock-a-block with antioxidants and phytonutrients they’ve been labelled a ‘superfood’? Or more sensuous than plump, juicy blueberries with their sweet-sharp ‘pop’ of flavour and the lovely inky juices they release during cooking?

It took me a while to fathom out how to make the perfect gluten-free, grain-free, refined sugar-free blueberry muffin, but I’m proud to say that I think I’ve achieved my goal with this original Primal Plate recipe. The flavour of blueberries combined with a little sweetness from raw honey and the spicy, slightly citrus fragrance of freshly ground coriander seed makes for a delicious, low-carbohydrate, home-baked muffin that’s an aromatic, flavourful and visual treat to share with everyone you love (suggest you make double the quantity if there are more than two of you!). 

Actually, come rain or shine, baking Blueberry and Coriander Seed Muffins to show my appreciation for 22 years of wedded-bliss is absolutely guaranteed to put a smile on my favourite man’s face! #feelingsmug!

Blueberry & Coriander Seed Muffins (V) (Makes 6 Muffins)

Ingredients

65g (2½oz) unsalted butter, melted 

60g (2oz) raw, clear honey

150g (5½oz) ground almonds                                         

20g (¾oz) organic coconut flour, sifted

1 level tsp baking powder                

¼ level tsp sea salt

1 tsp coriander seed, freshly ground (I use a pestle and mortar)

3 large organic eggs                    

1 dessertspoon vanilla essence

60ml (2 fl oz) full-fat whole milk - or enough to make a soft batter 

150g (5½oz) fresh blueberries, preferably organic

 

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 180℃ / 350°F / Gas mark 4 and line a muffin tin with 6 paper cases.

Put the honey and butter into a small saucepan, set over a low heat until the butter is just melted. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl mix together the ground almonds, coconut flour, freshly-ground coriander seed, baking powder and sea salt.    

In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, honey/melted butter and vanilla essence.

Using a rubber spatula, mix the wet and dry ingredients together. Add enough milk to make a soft batter of dropping consistency. 

Gently fold in 125g of the blueberries, then spoon the mixture into the paper cases (about ¾ of the way full - or approximately 105g batter per muffin) 

Top with the remaining 25g blueberries, allowing 2-3 extra blueberries per muffin.

Bake until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean, about 25 minutes

Notes

Look for blueberries that have a firm, smooth skin and a waxy bloom. Most of the nutrients are in the skin so although large, plump fruits are touted as the best, I think smaller ones may in fact be better for you. 

Also, according to a 2008 study, it was found that organically produced blueberries can contain significantly more antioxidants that conventionally grown ones.

Raw blueberries are a wonderful snack - especially useful to give to children instead of sweets!

 

Carbohydrate 17g Protein 10g - per muffin


Courgetti with Cherry Tomatoes & Asparagus

by Susan Smith in ,


It’s taken nearly two months for me to get my Lurch Spirali out of its box! A quick mid-week peek inside my refrigerator was the inspiration. Apart from organic courgettes, cherry tomatoes, a couple of bunches of asparagus that were begging to be eaten, half a raw cauliflower, eggs and several different cheeses, there wasn’t much else to speak of that could be converted into a substantial meal for three. Since we’d already succumbed to staving off our appetites with salted nuts and a large glass of wine, I knew I had to get something on the table sooner rather than later.

Besides which, I thought that at least making vegetable ‘spaghetti’ might distract us from our hunger pangs. And It did. Not that Courgetti with Cherry Tomatoes & Asparagus took very long to make. In fact, I think it was on the table in less than thirty minutes in spite of there being minimal instructions in or on the box and, according to my husband, not much more information on the internet! 

Anyway, vegetable spaghetti, for the purposes of this recipe we call it courgetti, was fascinatingly simple and quick to make. We were all quite excited to see these long beautiful green pasta-type spirals falling effortlessly from this genius little gadget (kids, especially those who find vegetables unappealing, will just love it!). Plus, we think the result is even better to eat than conventional pasta - altogether tastier, healthier and lighter - which lets your choice of pasta sauce sing even more loudly! 

My ‘sauce’ is an adaptation of a similarly entitled recipe in Rose Elliot’s book, Fast, Fresh and Fabulous. and, as well as befooling veggie-reluctant children (you might just change their minds by getting them involved in making the courgetti!), this low-carb, really healthy recipe is a slimmer’s delight - because who would not like to lose a little bit of excess weight in contemplation of baring all in the heat of summer? Or if that’s not your concern, when the sun starts to rise in the sky, you might just prefer spending more time outside rather than in the kitchen! 

A cross between a pasta dish and a warm salad, this is so quick and easy to make it’s practically convenience food! I’ve used slender asparagus spears here because they need very little preparation. Just snap off the bottoms, wash and cook. They also cook so quickly. Happily this means you can leave the ‘sauce’ to make itself under the grill whilst you attend to the courgetti, which is cooked al dente in just 3 minutes flat!

The images of the raw ingredients I’ve used for Courgetti with Cherry Tomatoes & Asparagus are not just for show! This is how I get organised when making any meal or recipe. I collect all the ingredients together and prep them first, i.e. before I even start the cooking process. 

This is a lovely, fresh way (looks so very Italian!) to eat young, thin spears of asparagus and get a healthy quotient of other fresh vegetables on your Primal Plate too. I’ve used soft goats cheese and some Gran Padano to add more depth of flavour and texture to the dish, but if you prefer, you could get your protein fix by substituting grilled meat, chicken or fish for the cheese.

Courgetti with Cherry Tomatoes & Asparagus (V) (Serves 2)

Ingredients

300g (10½oz) cherry tomatoes

250g (9oz) thin asparagus spears (about 12 thin spears per person, or if not available, 7 thicker ones see Notes below)

2 tbsp olive oil

Basil leaves, about 8 large ones, finely shredded

3 medium-large, firm, flat (not curved) chunky courgettes (size and shape matters!)

Sea salt 

Freshly ground black pepper

100g (3½oz) full-fat soft goat’s cheese

25g (1oz) Parmesan (or Gran Padano, or Vegetarian parmesan-style cheese), finely grated

Instructions

Boil a kettle of water. Set the grill to high.

Cut off both ends of the courgettes. Put the centre of the courgette into the centre of the Spirali vegetable support and holding the machine steady with one-hand, turn the crank clockwise with your other hand whilst pushing the vegetables tight up against the blades. - the courgettes are easily and quickly sliced twice into fabulous long julienne strips. What fun! Set aside whilst you prepare the ‘sauce’ ingredients.

Place the cherry tomatoes in a single layer on a grill pan. Put the washed and dried asparagus into a large bowl with half the olive oil and mix together with you hands until evenly coated. Put these on the grill pan too and season everything well with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. 

Put under the grill and cook for about 6-8 minutes or until the tomatoes are on the point of collapse and the asparagus just tender to the point of a knife, and perhaps tinged golden brown.

Once the tomatoes and asparagus are about half-way through their cooking time (after about 3-4 minutes) put the courgetti into the top half of a steamer and pour the boiling water from the kettle into the bottom half of the pan. Put the pan lid on and steam for 3 minutes. Keep your eye on the asparagus and tomatoes whilst the courgetti cooks.

Drain the courgetti well, then pour over the rest of the olive oil and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Divide the courgetti between two warm pasta dishes (large shallow bowls). Add the tomatoes and asparagus to the vegetable pasta and top with goats cheese, shredded basil and a sprinkling of Parmesan, if liked. Buon appetito!

 

Notes:

Select the finest (3mm blade) out of the 3 cutters supplied with your machine - this makes thin ‘spaghetti’ spirals out of your vegetables that not only look fantastic, they only need a very short period of time to cook. Assemble your Spirali machine on a clean flat surface and place a large container underneath to catch the prepared courgetti as it falls from the machine.

If you want to, you can peel the courgettes first so it comes out white, like pasta.

If you can’t get thin whole asparagus, use asparagus tips. Alternatively, first cut the tips off thicker asparagus and then split the stems vertically in half. 

For vegans, omit the cheese and try adding other finely chopped herbs to the basil - perhaps tarragon and chives. Serve the vegetable pasta with freshly chopped herbs and perhaps a good handful of toasted pine nuts scattered over.

You can make this dish completely fat-free by omitting the olive oil (although ‘low-fat’ isn’t a concern for people who follow a Primal or Paleo diet) 

 

Carbohydrate 16g Protein 22g - per serving