Paleo Pancakes

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While browsing the forum on Marks Daily Apple, I came across a 23 page thread on paleo pancakes, specifically, discussing a simple formula for ‘two ingredient’ banana and egg pancakes. Many posters raved that these actually tasted like pancakes, or how the people they cooked them for said they tasted better than regular pancakes. So with 2 ingredients, how could I not give it a try? I quickly digested some of the 23-odd pages of users’ tips, suggestions (“add some tapioca flour”) and cautions (“don’t add coconut flour, makes it chewy”), then made them for breakfast before boot camp, as I figured the pancakes would be great fuel for what promised to be an energising and punishing session with our Olympian trainer Zoe.

Verdict: winner! They were delicious, although there is no mistaking these for regular flour pancakes taste-wise, being more like a banana omelette, and seemed more crepe-like in texture than pancakes. I will definitely keep on making them. My version has more than just two ingredients but it’s not overly taxing to make. Indeed, they are way quicker to whip up than regular pancakes and use only 1 bowl, a fork and spoon in the prep.

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Serves 1

Ingredients

  • 1 medium banana
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • blueberries
  • coconut oil (or ghee)
  1. Mash up banana in bowl with a fork. Move them to the side, add 2 eggs and beat. Add spices and combine everything well.
  2. Cook in a non-stick frying pan over medium heat. They will be easier to flip if they are not larger than about 9cm in diameter. Place a bit of coconut oil in the pan. I wouldn’t advise using butter as it tends to burn. Spoon the batter into the frying pan and scatter some blueberries on top. Let the pancakes set and turn a nice brown colour before flipping. If you attempt to flip them too soon, they will break up. They don’t need much time at all on the other side, about 10 seconds on the second side.

Variations:

  • Add 1 tsp vanilla extract and some chopped fresh strawberries.
  • Add 1 heaped tablespoon of almond meal and 1/2 tsp baking powder.
  • Add 2 tablespoons of almond butter.

Recipe: Sticky Spiced Chicken Wings

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Chicken wings, along with marylands, are my favourite part of the chicken. With their high ratio of skin to fat, wings are especially delicious when coated in this spicy Asian marinade and roasted to golden brown perfection.

Twice in one day, while out shopping, I overheard people being afraid of fat. A woman next to me at the butcher was asking if they had soup bones with less fat. Another woman, to whom the butcher was recommending his range of inhouse-made smallgoods, declined them as she said they were too fatty. The two women were of different ages and ethnicities but were united in their fear of fat.

I can understand why they feel this way. When I was around 12, I went on a totally orthorexic phase and removed the chunks of fat from lup cheong (chinese sausage) and ate my toast without any butter or margarine. Fortunately that phase didn’t last for long, but it wasn’t until relatively recently that I have allowed myself to revel in eating fat, and – even better – with the knowledge that the healthy fats now turn out to be actually good for us (such as animal fats, coconut oil, lard, tallow, butter, ghee, macadamia oil, avocado oil, olive oil). I won’t bore you with the scientific details (if you are interested, check out the Further Reading references below), just to mention that fat is necessary for hormone production, improves brain function, nerve signaling and immunity.

I never used to cook chicken wings until I came this recipe and now it makes a regular appearance at dinner, plus leftovers for breakfast the next day.

Sticky Spiced Chicken Wings

16 chicken wings (including wing tips and drumettes)
Lemon juice, to serve

Marinade:

  • 10 tbsp tamarind paste
  • 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 4 tbsp macadamia oil or extra light olive oil
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced or grated
  • 1-2 tsp chilli flakes (to taste)
  • 1 tsp five spice powder
  • ⅛ tsp ground star anise (optional)
  • 2 tsp dry sherry or chinese rice wine (Shao Xing)
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp (or 1 stalk) chopped lemongrass
  • ½ tsp sumac (optional)
  • Salt, pepper (to taste)
  1. Combine marinade ingredients and mix with chicken wings. Marinate for at least 1 hour.
  2. Preheat oven to 180°C.
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  4. Line an oven tray with foil and set a baking rack on top. (If the wings are in direct contact with the foil, the skin tends to stick.) Place the marinated wings on the rack (top side down). Baste with any leftover marinade. Bake for 15 mins, then turn over and bake for a further 15 minutes or until cooked through and golden brown. Squeeze over some lemon juice before serving.

Further Reading

Kale is the new black

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I have a confession to make. Only months ago, I was militantly anti-kale. It was too fashionable, too ubiquitous, too hipster-doofus, and too expensive. Heck, $5 a bunch was crazy, what am I – made of money?? But even I could not escape the curly tendrils of this dark green vegetation. First it made its way into my smoothies, then into breakfast stir-fries, and tonight kale pushed its way into my heart (or at least into my Top 10 favourite green leafy vegies). It did help that I scored a bunch for $2 at my local asian grocer. I hate to say it, but kale won.

Kale chips are so delicious, they should be forbidden on the Whole-30.

I followed the tips from Nom Nom Paleo. To begin, wash the kale. Nomnom Paleo said to dry it in a salad spinner but I don’t have one so I just wrapped the kale in a tea towel and shook it. The aim is to remove as much water as possible. Then I blotted them with kitchen paper. Cut off the stems and save them for stir frying. (It is ok to have a little stem in the kale chips but they are a bit tougher and definitely if you have company, the polite thing to do would be to only have leaf in your chips.) Cut the leaves into large pieces.

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Meanwhile preheat the oven to 175°C. Place the kale into a big bowl and add a drizzle (around 1 Tbsp) of macadamia oil (Nomnom used avocado oil). Melted butter or ghee would work well too. You don’t need to measure the oil, just drizzle a bit in. The aim is to have a very light coating of oil on the leaves. Use your hands to toss the kale and distribute the oil. Don’t salt them until after baking. Lay the kale in a single layer on a baking sheet (line the baking sheet with parchment if you wish; it is not essential as the kale chips won’t stick, but it will make cleanup easier).

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Bake for 12 minutes or until crisp. Don’t let them burn otherwise they will be bitter. They reminded me of Thins potato crisps, only better and totally utterly guilt-free.

Passionfruit and Ginger Smoothie

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Now that the weather has turned cooler, the hot water bottle and winter doona have come out yet I long for summer still, so I was delighted to pick up a bargain bag of passionfruit from my greengrocer, which turned out to be the sweetest juciest passionfruit I’ve ever had. I took the opportunity to savour the last memories of summer with this vibrant smoothie.

Ingredients
Makes 2 serves

  • 70g chia seed porridge (or 2 tbsp chia seed soaked in 60g water for 30 minutes)
  • 1 passionfruit
  • 1/3 lebanese cucumber, chopped
  • 1/2 small carrot, unpeeled, diced
  • 1.5 cup kale leaves
  • 1/4 avocado
  • 1 kiwi fruit, unpeeled
  • 1.5-2 cm knob of ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 290g iced water
  • 1/4 cup parsley, stems removed (optional)

Blend for 30 seconds.

Image Credit

Pork, Eggplant & Bitter Melon Hotpot

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Recently Mark Sisson blogged about 4 foods that have medicinal benefits, and I was surprised to discover bitter melon among them. Growing up, bitter melon made an occasional appearance at dinner and it was not one of my favourite dishes, although it did have an astringent quality to it which was interesting and peculiar. After my recent attempt I must say it wasn’t so bad was delicious and I couldn’t detect any bitterness.

According to some studies, bitter melon has anti-diabetic properties and can help improve insulin sensitivity. Given that bitter melon is in season now, do you need any other reason to throw some in your basket and give it a try.

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Pork, Eggplant and Bitter Melon Hotpot

  • 2 tsp macadamia oil or coconut oil
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 500g pork mince
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 small eggplant or half large eggplant, chopped
  • 1 bitter melon (or 2 if you are really keen), seeds and inner pith remove, sliced 5mm thick
  • 1 ½ tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp tamari sauce or coconut aminos
  • ½ tsp sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp Paleo XO sauce, optional
  • 1 cup chicken stock or bone broth
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp tapioca starch mixed with 2 tbsp water
  • Chopped fresh coriander for garnish

Method
Fry onion in oil until softened. Add mince, garlic, eggplant, bitter melon, fish sauce, tamari, sesame oil, XO sauce and stock and simmer, covered, for 10-15 minutes or until eggplant is soft and completely cooked. Taste for seasoning and add salt if required, and pepper. Add tapioca roux and stir well. Bring to boil, then turn off heat. Sprinkle with chopped coriander. Serve with white rice or cauliflower rice.

I found there was no need to blanche or salt the bitter melon as some recipes suggest, as there was very little bitterness remaining after the braising.

Kanga Kheema

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One of the Paleo myths or criticisms I often come across is that the Paleo diet involves eating a lot of meat. Before I went paleo, this is what I thought too. In fact, many Paleo-eaters describe themselves as carnivorous vegans, meaning that vegetables form a large part of their diet. I am always looking for ways to add vegies to dishes for variety, taste and nutrition.

Today’s recipe is something I make a lot. I like it because you can throw in whatever vegetables you have in the fridge, it is economical and saves time as I make a big batch of it and it lasts for days, dare I say, even improving with age.

Kheema refers to a type of dry, mince-based curry. It is delicious made with grass-fed beef mince ($8.99/kg from Aldi) but recently I tried it with kangaroo mince (available from Coles and Woolworths) and it was superb. Kangaroo is in many ways the ideal paleo meat. It is one of the few truly free-range meats available to us, and thus guaranteed to have eaten a natural diet. After all, as Michael Pollan pointed out, “you are what what you eat eats”. (It took me a few seconds to think that one through.) Kangaroo is high in protein and low in fat (not that I am fat-phobic, it’s just one of its qualities). The only time I had eaten kangaroo previously was many years ago in a restaurant when I was served a rubbery rare kangaroo steak drizzled with some sweet sauce. So it was with a little trepidation that I used kangaroo mince, but was delighted to find that it wasn’t chewy at all. If you didn’t know it was kangaroo, you’d probably think it was beef.

The only supermarket source of certified grass-fed beef mince I have come across is from Aldi. The supermarket-branded beef from Woolworths comes from livestock which is able to range freely on pasture, but this does not mean they are exclusively pasture fed. According to Woolies, “livestock must range freely on pasture, not be given any growth promoters (including antibiotics) and have no genetically modified inputs”. Woolies beef is primarily grass-fed but in circumstances where there may not be enough grass they may be grain-fed. Coles advised that their beef mince is sourced from “a combination of grass and grain fed cattle depending on seasonal conditions to obtain the best quality beef available”.

Kanga Kheema

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp coconut oil, macadamia oil or ghee
  • 2 large onions or a leek, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2cm piece of fresh ginger, grated
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste

Spices

  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • 5 tbsp curry powder
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp chilli powder (or to taste)

Vegetables

  • 1 carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1 choko, peeled and cut into 1cm chunks
  • 1 zucchini, peeled and diced
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 1 can of sliced champignons or 300g button mushrooms, sliced

To serve

  • Lime juice
  • Chopped fresh coriander

Method

  1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, garlic and a little salt, fry till onion softens. Add mince and spices, break up any lumps, and cook until browned.
  2. Add vegetables and 1 cup of hot water. Season. Simmer for 15-20 minutes until vegetables are cooked.
  3. To finish, sprinkle with coriander and serve with rice (white rice or cauli rice).

Easy Paleo Pickles

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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

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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.

Green Smoothies 101

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So they look a bit like pond slime, but I confess to being a green smoothie convert. Formerly I was a member of the “I don’t drink my calories” brigade, but for the last couple of months I’ve been enjoying one every day and love how it keeps me full for ages. I am not much of a raw vegetable eater so it helps me get down a good portion of green leafy vegetables in a very convenient and quick way. If you are in a rush to get out the door but don’t want to skip breakfast because you know you’ll otherwise make unhealthy food choices in the paleo food desert that is the outside world, smoothies are your solution. Sip on one of these at every red light or on the train and you will be well nourished and set up for the day.

I am giving you my base green smoothie formula to which you can add your favourite fruits or whatever is in season. I don’t need my smoothies to be very sweet at all, they are packed with healthy vegetation and don’t contain a whole lot of fruit in comparison with normal smoothies.

Makes 2 large glasses.

It’s Easy Being Green Smoothie
Base ingredients
80g chia seed porridge – available here or make your own by soaking chia seeds overnight (1 part chia seeds to 7 parts water, by weight), or simply use 2 tablespoons chia seed
25g coconut milk or coconut cream
30g protein powder (I use whey protein isolate)
200g water and ice cubes (about 1/3 of the weight in ice cubes)
1/2 lebanese cucumber
60g spinach leaves, washed (about 3 handfuls)
1/4 avocado (optional)
+ the fruits below as per your preferred variation

Variation 1:
1/2 nectarine
1 passionfruit
1/2 kiwi fruit

Variation 2:
1/2 banana
1 mango cheek (frozen mangos work well too)
1/2 kiwi fruit

Variation 3:
1 cup frozen mixed berries (120g)
1/2 banana
1/2 kiwi fruit

Variation 4:
1/2 green apple
1/2 kiwi fruit
1/2 banana
1/2 nectarine

Blend all ingredients in a blender for 30 seconds or until smooth. I use an Omniblend which is a high speed blender similar to a Vitamix (but at a third of the price), but you could make green smoothies in any blender, you might need to process it a bit longer.

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  • Other ingredients which can be added for extra flavour include basil, mint, parsley, ground cinnamon or unsweetened cocoa powder (probably not all in the same smoothie).
  • It is fine to combine the ingredients the night before and blend it the next morning.
  • I don’t bother peeling the cucumber or kiwi fruit, just give them a good rinse. The kiwi hairs are not detectable in the smoothie.
  • If you want it a bit sweeter, add a couple drops of stevia, although I find including 1/2 a banana makes it plenty sweet.
  • Other possible substitutions are almond milk or coconut water for the water, yogurt for the coconut milk, baby kale &/or salad greens for the spinach.

PS. I was so impressed with the Omniblend that I signed up for their Affiliate program so you dear readers could score a discount if you buy one on the Omniblend site using the coupon code below.

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What are your favourite green smoothie combinations?