Easy Paleo Pickles

IMG_2802_749x471

You may have noticed pickles are rather trendy at the moment and be wondering “what’s the story with pickles?” Every second restaurant is serving them, Pete Evans is releasing his own fermentation range (which every self-respecting celebrity cook ought to have), they have even found their way into McDonald’s hamburgers. The paleosphere likes pickles because they assist in populating the gut with diverse bacteria or probiotics which is good for digestion. Hence eating foods such as sauerkraut and kim chi are encouraged. Unfortunately, store-bought pickles or sauerkraut are of limited probiotic benefit as the pasteurisation process which industrially-made products are required to undergo kills the good bacteria along with the bad. Store-bought pickles also tend to have added sugar.

I was initially turned off by the idea of fermenting something myself. What if it didn’t work and went bad? How would I know if it was fermenting properly? And leaving food unrefrigerated caused me some unease. But living by my mantra Feel the fear, and do it anyway I finally decided to take the dive and make some pickles. The next morning I was very happy to see the popped up cling-wrap which was evidence that my little pickles were indeed fermenting away and producing gases, and I had fun checking in on them from time to time and ‘burping’ them. By the third day it was sour enough so I screwed the lid on and popped it in the fridge.

I made my pickles with carrots and jicama, which is a tuber which can be cooked or eaten raw and tastes like a cross between an apple and a potato, but daikon can also be used and is more widely available.

Uses

  • Pre-dinner nibbles, their sourness stimulates digestion
  • In salads
  • In rice paper rolls

pickle_collage

Ingredients

  • 1 medium jicama or 400-450g daikon radish, peeled and julienned
  • 2 carrots, peeled and julienned
  • 1 red or green chilli
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or grated
  • 1½ tsp fine sea salt
  • 1cm slice fresh ginger, peeled and grated

Brine: 175g cooled boiled water + 3.5ml fine sea salt

Method

  1. Place carrots, jicama or turnip and salt in a large bowl. Mix thoroughly and set aside for an hour (or up to 4 hours).
  2. Using your hands (I wore food handling gloves) squeeze the vegetables until they release their juices. Add the chilli, garlic and ginger.
  3. Pack the mixture tightly into a jar and pour over the veggie juices. If there is not enough liquid to cover the vegetables, make up some brine and pour over the top. To make the brine, heat a little of the water, dissolve the salt and add the rest of the water. Reserve the extra brine and store in the fridge as you may need to top up the jar during the fermentation process.
  4. Cover the jar with cling film secured with a rubber band, excluding all the air. Place the jar on a saucer to catch the brine which will be exuded when fermentation begins. Place the jar where the temperature remains pretty constant, preferably 15 – 21°C. Let it ferment for 2-3 days, releasing the built-up air and topping up with brine as required.
  5. Taste and when sour to your satisfaction, screw on lid and refrigerate.

I don’t know how long it keeps; I suppose until it goes moldy and tastes bad.

Paleo XO Sauce

IMG_2810_749x471

One of the things I found after going paleo was that most asian sauces and condiments are decidedly non-paleo, which was tricky and not very convenient. Most store-bought asian sauces contain one or more of the following non-paleo ingredients: sugar, soybean oil, vegetable oil, soy, wheat and MSG. The top ingredient in hoisin sauce is sugar, which is also found in every oyster sauce and some soy and fish sauces. Don’t despair though, there are a few goodies to be found. Mae Ploy thai curry pastes are generally ok and don’t contain sugar or vegetable oils. Red Boat Fish Sauce is sugar-free, though hard to find (I bought a bottle from the fruit shop at Rhodes Shopping Centre), and I also found a thai chilli sauce which is paleo-friendly.

IMG_2807_749

So what to do? Make your own! Like this XO sauce, the original recipe for which comes from Adam Liaw, the Masterchef winner. I have amended the original recipe to make it more paleo and also adapted it to my tastes. It is not 100% paleo because the lup yook – chinese bacon – is made with non-paleo seasonings like sugar and soy sauce, but you can leave it out or substitute with prosciutto if preferred. Leftover lup yook can be frozen.

I don’t like to have a lot of oil floating at the top of my XO sauce so I reduced the quantity of oil and tweaked the seasonings to ramp it up a bit. XO sauce is named after XO cognac, the ‘XO’ designating a prestige product. XO sauce doesn’t actually contain alcohol and has nothing to do with cognac. Adding XO sauce to simply stir-fried or steamed asian greens will take it to another level. Imagine the difference between playing slot machines in your local pub and being invited to the VIP room at Caesar’s. Actually neither of those appeals to me … but you get the idea. It is great with steamed seafood, or add a few generous dollops to stir-fried snow peas and prawns. I like to spoon off the oil and use it to stir-fry asian greens, makes the dish very tasty indeed.

IMG_2804_749

Ingredients

  • 50g dried scallops, soaked in water overnight
  • 50g dried shrimp, soaked for 1 hour
  • 290g extra light olive oil
  • 4 large red or golden shallots (or 1 large red or brown onion), peeled and finely chopped (I process in food processor)
  • 5 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 6 large cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped (I process in food processor)
  • 60g lup yook (Chinese bacon, available from asian grocers, found near the chinese dried sausages), or chinese sausage ‘lup cheong’ or prosciutto, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 4 tsp chilli powder (cayenne)
  • 1 tbsp dark soy sauce (or gluten-free soy, tamari or coconut aminos)
  • 1 ½ tsp fish sauce
  1. Drain the scallops and shrimp. (The soaking liquid is not used in this recipe but is tasty and can be reserved for using wherever stock or a bit of umami is called for.) Shred the scallops using your fingers to separate the strands. I find this highly tedious but if you have access to child labour, their nimble little fingers would be perfect for this task. Roughly chop the shrimp in a food processor (or mince using a knife).
  2. Heat 1 cup of the oil in a wok or large saucepan over medium heat and fry the onion/shallots, chilli flakes and garlic for 10 minutes. Add scallops, shrimp, lup yook/lup cheong/prosciutto, salt, chilli powder, soy sauce and fish sauce and fry for a further 10 minutes.
  3. Add remaining oil and simmer on low heat for 30 minutes or until the sauce is oily and jammy. Place into sterilised jars and screw on lid whilst hot so it will form a vacuum. It will keep for months in the fridge.

For another condiment recipe, check out NomNom Paleo’s Paleo Sriracha.