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).