Seafood Stew

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After a feast of roast suckling pig one night last week, I swore to eat light for a while, simply because afterwards I felt heavy and full in a stodgy, ready-to-hibernate-for-months kind of way. What do I then go and order a couple days later, but roast pork belly. So I finally made good on my promise to myself to eat more seafood, and I’m sure glad I did. This stew contains fish (whichever you prefer, or which looks best at the market), mussels and calamari in a thick flavoursome tomato base. I cook the seafood separately before adding it to the tomato sauce, to ensure that everything is cooked properly. The tomato base can be cooked in advance, making it even quicker to throw everything together.

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Seafood Stew

Serves 3-4

Tomato Base
  • 1 Tbsp butter + 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 small onions or 1 1/2 large onions, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 150ml tomato passata or tomato puree
  • 800g can diced tomatoes
  • 1 red capsicum, roasted and peeled, finely chopped
  • 150ml chicken or fish stock (optional)
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1 tsp dried tarragon
  • 1/2 – 3/4 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp finely chopped parsley
  • Mussel cooking liquid
  • 1 fish fillet (I used deep sea bream, but you can use any fish you like), around 300g, cut into chunks
  • To serve: 2 Tbsp finely chopped parsley
  1. Cook the onions in butter and olive oil over low-medium heat until completely softened and caramelised. Do not let it brown as it may become bitter.
  2. Add the other ingredients except the fish and parsley for serving. Simmer for 15-20 minutes. (I start the tomato base off and then attend to prepping the other seafood ingredients.)
  3. Add the fish and calamari (cooked as per below) and turn heat to a low simmer. Cook until fish is done, around 5-8 minutes (time will depend on the type and size of your fish).
  4. Add mussels (cooked as per below).
  5. Sprinkle with parsley and freshly ground black pepper. Salt to taste (note that the mussel cooking liquid will have added some salt).
Calamari
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 2 small/med calamari
  • 45ml white wine
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • dash of salt

Cut under the eyes to separate the tentacles from the inedibles. Discard the cartilage (looks like a piece of clear plastic). Wash out the insides under running water. Peel off the skin (the pigmented thin skin) and discard. Slice into rings. Saute in butter and add the remaining ingredients (adding the garlic towards the end to avoid burning), cook for approximately 5 minutes, or until done. Set aside.

Mussels
  • 1 dozen green-lipped or black mussels, cleaned and beards removed
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 45ml white wine

In a large pan, heat the oil and add garlic, mussels and white wine. Cover and cook until mussels are open and the meat is cooked. Remove the meat from the shells. Reserve the cooking liquid, which is to be added to the tomato base.

Variation

Add 1 cup of chopped fennel bulb. For the fish component, use 1 deboned spanish mackerel cutlet, cut into bite-sized pieces.

Chilli Jam

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Once we were in the supermarket checkout queue and it was one of those random moments when the shopper behind us struck up a conversation. Actually it was hardly a conversation, just a brief friendly moment, when the other shopper commented that our groceries looked like a Masterchef mystery box. And indeed it did, because it was a motley harvest comprising of one pear, one tray of mince, one onion, a block of chocolate, and a couple of bananas.

That mystery box comment came to mind a few days ago when I was making one of my ‘clean out the fridge’ stir fries. Sitting on the counter was a random collection of ingredients which would soon be united to form a delicious meal.

  • One choko, courtesy of my aunt, which I had had for ages and didn’t quite know what to do with
  • A third of a zucchini
  • Half a bunch of garlic chives
  • A tray of pork mince
  • A knob of ginger
  • Some mushrooms
  • One eggplant
  • Half a bunch of coriander
  • A bunch of vietnamese mint from my parent’s garden.

The magic ingredient which turns this bunch of delinquents into a tasty dish is Chilli Jam (or Nam Prik Pao in Thai). Because I wasn’t able to find ready-made chilli jam which didn’t have sugar or vegetable oil, I decided to make my own, and it is not difficult especially if you have a blender or food processor, although it does take a bit of time so I like to make extra which can be frozen. You can also use Chilli Jam to make Thai dishes like Beef Chilli Basil stir fry.

Chilli Jam (Nam Prik Pao)

Ingredients

  • 100g whole dried chillis, rinsed
  • 60g dried shrimp, rinsed
  • 250ml light olive oil
  • 60g garlic, chopped
  • 200g red or brown shallots, peeled and roughly sliced (also can use red onion, diced)
  • 12g belachan shrimp paste
  • 55g fish sauce
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 100g tamarind pulp + 160g warm/hot water

Method

  1. First, toast your shrimp paste. Break it up into smaller pieces and wrap it in a flat foil parcel. Roast in a preheated 200°C oven for 5 minutes. Remove and set aside.*
  2. Prepare tamarind water by combining the tamarind pulp and warm water and let it soak for 5 minutes. Squeeze the pulp with your hands to release the sour goodness, then strain through a sieve set over a small bowl. Retain the water, discard the pulp.
  3. In a frying pan over medium-high heat, dry fry the chillis for 2-3 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.
  4. Next, I fried the dried shrimp for 2-3 minutes until they changed colour slightly and became fragrant. Set aside.
  5. Heat up the oil in a deep frying pan or wok over medium heat. Add the garlic and shallots and fry until light golden brown, around 7 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Keep the oil.
  6. When the shallot and garlic has cooled, I put it into my Omniblend together with the shrimp paste, dried shrimp and dried chillis and blended it until a slightly coarse paste formed.
  7. Re-heat the oil over medium-low heat and add all the chilli paste. Cook on gentle heat for around 5 minutes or until it becomes fragrant. Add the fish sauce, salt and tamarind water and cook for a further 5 minutes over medium-low heat. Transfer the paste you will be using in the next couple of weeks into a jar and store in the fridge. Freeze the remainer.

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*I discovered a nifty shortcut using toastie pockets. Toastie pockets are made from heat-resistant greaseproof material and can go in the toaster. I simply wrap the shrimp paste in foil, place in a toastie pocket and into the toaster, which I have cranked up to the medium setting.

Churn Baby, Churn

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One appliance that gets a regular workout in my kitchen is my ice-cream machine. I’m not one to invest in kitchen appliances lightly, and had been making my own ice-cream long enough using the tedious manual method (by taking it out of the freezer several times during the freezing process to stir it up) to know that an electric churn would be a wonderful and time-saving device. Ice-cream is one of my favourite foods, I can eat it rain, hail or shine (but that hardly makes me unique, does it).

Going paleo has not dampened my enthusiasm for ice-cream in the least, though I might add upfront that my ice-cream would not pass muster with the Paleo Police because it contains dairy, dextrose and erythritol (a sugar alcohol). Fortunately the Paleo Police have no jurisdiction in my household. I am not a big fan of replacing sugar with honey on account of its fructose content; instead, I use dextrose (which is simply glucose) which gets a tick from David Gillespie, author of Sweet Poison. Commercially, dextrose is used in gelato to prevent it from freezing too hard, so that it remains scoopable. Incidentally, it is also used in beer brewing, so you can find dextrose in brewing supply shops or stores like BigW in the home brew area. When using it in a recipe which was originally written for sugar, note that dextrose is less sweet than sugar. The second sweetener I use is a monkfruit sweetener which is combined with erythritol, a sugar alcohol. Commercially this is sold in supermarkets as Norbu (brand name).

Over the years I have played with many different ice-cream recipes but this is my current go-to. It uses 100% chocolate and cocoa powder for the die-hard chocolate lover.

Finished churning

Finished churning

Packed and about to go in the freezer to ripen.

Finished churning, packed and about to go in the freezer to ripen.

Chocolate Ice Cream

Ingredients

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 30g dextrose
  • 55g Norbu (monkfruit sweetener)
  • 130g coconut cream
  • 260g water
  • 240g cream (thickened works too)
  • ¼ tsp fine sea salt
  • 60g cocoa powder*
  • 2 tsp instant coffee powder
  • 125g boiling water
  • 80g dextrose
  • 44g 100% chocolate (cocoa mass)*
  • 40g cream cheese, full fat
  • 1 1/3 sheet titanium gelatine (20cm x 5cm)*
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract

*Callebaut cocoa mass, cocoa powder and gelatine sheets are available from Chef’s Warehouse, Albion St Surry Hills. If you don’t have cocoa mass, 85-90% Lindt chocolate bars make a good substitute.

Method

  1. Heat the coconut cream, water and cream in microwave jug until it just comes to the boil. Watch that it doesn’t overflow.
  2. Whisk yolks together with 30g dextrose and the Norbu. Add hot cream mixture gradually while whisking. Add salt. Heat over double boiler until mixture registers 80°C on an instant-read thermometer.
  3. Combine cocoa powder, coffee powder, boiling water and 80g dextrose in saucepan and heat while whisking constantly until mixture has dissolved and is almost boiling. Vigilance is required as it can burn easily. Remove from heat, add cocoa mass and cream cheese. Whisk until dissolved.
  4. Soak gelatine in cold water until it goes soft and floppy (around 5 minutes). Squeeze out excess water and place gelatine in a glass. Place glass in a bowl of just boiled water and stir until gelatin has melted. Set aside.
  5. Add chocolate mixture to the cream mixture. Add gelatine, vodka and vanilla and whisk to combine thoroughly. Chill mixture overnight. I have found that when I skip the overnight chill, the resulting churn is not as successful.
  6. Churn in ice-cream maker for 24-25 minutes until thick and creamy. Freeze at least 4 hrs before eating.
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    Nutritional Information

    So I do all this work making my own ice-cream, I want to know what the nutritional pay-off is. Overall energy, protein and fat are similar to that of your supermarket gourmet ice-cream (I used Connoisseur chocolate ice-cream for comparison). My recipe is slightly lower in total calories, with 10.2g total carbs (9.0g sugar) compared with Connoisseur’s 16.8g total carbs (16.3g sugar), per 72g serve.

    Banana Split

    Cut a banana in half lengthwise. Top with chocolate ice-cream, whipped cream and chopped roasted nuts. You could also make a chocolate sauce to drizzle if you are feeling decadent, by heating equal parts chocolate and cream.

    Variation: Choc Hazelnut Ice-cream

    To the recipe add 85 grams Mayvers Hazelnut and Cocoa Butter and an extra 1-2 tsp Norbu. Instead of the vodka, use Frangelico if you have some handy.

3 ways with Broccoli

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Broccoli is currently in season, it is an absolute bargain so I wanted to present 3 ways to cook it as a side dish for your Go Paleo meals, ranging from the simple and quick to the elaborate and absolutely delicious.

Steamed Broccoli

Suitable for:

  • When you have no time, you want dinner and you want it literally NOW.
  • You don’t have an oven.

Prep and Cooking Time: 5 minutes

Fill a small saucepan with around 1.5cm water. Bring water to the boil. Meanwhile, wash broccoli and cut into florets. When the water boils, place broccoli in the pot, cover and steam for 4.5 minutes. Drain. Eat.

I have tried steaming broccoli in the microwave but find that sometimes the broccoli turns out rubbery, so I would not recommend using the microwave.

Roast Broccoli

Suitable for:

  • When you have a little more time, an oven, and a willingness to have your life changed by the loveliness of roast broccoli with its little crispy edges, such that you can never go back to eating steamed broccoli again. It is well worth the extra time, the flavour intensifies and the broccoli develops delicious crispy caramelised edges.

Prep and Cooking Time: 20 minutes

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Preheat oven to 190°C. Line a baking tray with foil and brush lightly with olive oil (or cooking fat of your choice, macadamia oil, butter, coconut oil etc). Wash broccoli and dry thoroughly using a tea towel, shaking out the excess water. Cut into florets. I like to cut the florets quite small so they cook quicker with more surface area to brown. Place broccoli on tray in a single layer and bake for 10 minutes. Around 5 minutes into cooking, open the oven door to release the steam. Turn the pieces and bake for further 5-7 minutes or until nicely singed but not burnt.

You can also use the same technique for cauliflower, although it will take longer to cook.

Roast Cauliflower, Broccoli, Spinach and Mushroom Bake

Suitable for:

  • Entertaining, special occasions, lunches, wedding proposals (yes, it is *that* good)
  • NB. Contains dairy

Prep and Cooking Time: 1 hour

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Serves 5-6

  • Cooking oil of your choice (such as olive oil)
  • ½ large cauliflower head, washed, trimmed and cut into florets
  • 1 broccoli head, washed, trimmed and cut into florets
  • 1-2 tsp butter
  • 300g button mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 box (250g) frozen spinach, thawed
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 50g sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (I am currently loving King Island’s Surprise Bay cheddar)
  • 140g sour cream
  • Salt and pepper
  • 45g parmesan cheese, grated

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 200°C.
  2. Brush some olive oil on a large baking dish and set aside. (I use a large rectangular pyrex dish)
  3. Bake cauliflower and broccoli according to instructions above, turning once during cooking. The broccoli will be cooked before the cauliflower, remove from oven and set aside while cauliflower finishes cooking. You want the florets to be lightly caramelised. (Keep the foil from the roasted broccoli/cauliflower to use later.)
  4. Meanwhile, in a large frying pan, sauté the mushrooms in butter with a little salt until they have released their liquid and have browned. Add the onions and cook for 4-5 minutes until onions are translucent. Add the garlic, remove from heat.
  5. In a large bowl, combine the following:
    • eggs
    • sour cream
    • sautéed mushrooms and onion
    • spinach
    • cheddar cheese
    • roasted broccoli and cauliflower
    • salt and pepper, to taste
  6. Lower oven temperature to 175°C. Pour everything into the baking dish and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes, remove foil and bake for further 10-12 minutes or until nice and golden on the top.

Variations

  • Add ½ a butternut pumpkin, cut into 2 – 2.5cm cubes and roasted together with the cauliflower. If including pumpkin, add an extra egg to bind it all together.
  • Add a white sweet potato (I like the way the white version stays firm and not mushy when cooked) diced into 2cm cubes, baked along with the cauliflower, they take the same time to cook.

You can prep this dish up until (and including) step 5, and refrigerate until you are reading to bake. If you do this, add an extra 5 minutes to the initial bake time.

Get down and squat

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Several months ago I began integrating mobility practice into my life, and one thing that I started with is doing the “Asian squat”. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, check out this hilarious video (duration: 5 minutes). Basically it’s an arse-to-grass full squat with heels firmly on the ground.

Contrary to what some believe, the asian squat is not particular to asians, nor are asians the only race who can do them. In fact, squatting is the human’s natural rest (and defecation) position and it comes naturally to kids. I have observed many times how easily my little nephews plonk down into a squat when they want to examine something on the ground, but western adults lose the flexibility to squat properly because they do so much sitting in chairs and on western toilets (yep, another example of how chairs have ruined us). Wearing shoes with raised heels has also impaired our ankle flexibility, making it difficult to squat without raising our heels.

Fortunately it is something which we can fix with a little practice. So now when I’m waiting to cross the road, down I go into squat. Ditto with waiting for a train, bus, doctor’s waiting room, whatever. I feel a little weird, especially when there are perfectly good chairs going vacant, but hey, who’s watching anyway. How about this for a challenge: when I am watching Masterchef, I have to go into a squat every time a contestant says the word “gutted” and can’t get up until someone says the words “plate up”. Until my ankles become flexible enough to allow my body weight to shift backwards, it is a bit of a pain and definitely not a position I could sustain for a long period of time at the moment, but is a technique which could well come handy in the right time, right place, off the beaten track.

Related Links

How to Squat Properly – Mark’s Daily Apple
Ido Portal’s 30 min/day Squat Challenge
Easystool Win-win, practice your squats while taking a dump. Quickly transforms your western toilet into a squat loo.