Chopped Chicken Liver

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I had a yen for pâté recently and remembered bookmarking a recipe by Melissa Joulwan (blogger & author of Well Fed 1 and 2) for Chopped Liver, so decided to give it a go. I love her recipes because Ms Joulwan is not afraid of a good spicing. Apparently chopped liver is a common Jewish side dish, and the saying “What am I, chopped liver?,” spoken in a haughty tone, conveys indignance at being treated as a side dish. Frankly, if someone were going to treat me as a side dish, I’d be happy if it were one as nutrient dense as Chopped Liver. It’s a lot easier to make than pâté and can be made dairy-free (depending on the fat used). The most tedious part was removing the stringy bits from the livers, but with a bit of imagination, the time passes quicker if one pretends one is performing a chicken autopsy.

Chopped liver makes a great breakfast food and would also be perfect for picnics. It reminds me of the kind of food that was recommended for children before people got all weird about organ meat.

I tweaked the original recipe a bit, using schmaltz as the fat. I also added some garlic and a pinch of nutmeg. Instead of the caraway seeds, I would use thyme next time as I wasn’t a big fan of the chewy texture of the caraway seeds.

Chopped Liver

Serves 4

  • 2 – 3 tablespoons rendered chicken fat (schmalz) (or fat of your choice: ghee, lard, duck fat)
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • ½ cup chicken stock or water
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 400g chicken livers
  • Pinch of ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp dried thyme (or caraway seeds)
  • 2 tablespoons brandy (or madeira or sherry)
  • 2 hardboiled eggs, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • ¼ cup parsley leaves
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • Ground black pepper, to taste
  1. Remove stringy veins and sinews from the livers.
  2. In a non-stick frying pan, cook the onion in a bit of the chicken fat over medium heat until softened and browned. I like to add stock or water (around 40ml at a time) which helps with the cooking process. Add the garlic when the onions are almost ready (to avoid burning the garlic).
  3. When the onions have browned and any added liquid has evaporated, remove onions from the pan and set aside. Add more chicken fat to the pan and brown the chicken livers in batches. Brown the first side, undisturbed, for 2 minutes, then flip and cook on the other side until the livers are cooked but remain a little pink in the middle. Remove the livers and deglaze the pan with brandy (or a little stock/water). Let the livers cool.
  4. In a food processor, blend all ingredients until combined but chunky.
  5. Spread into a storage container and chill for an hour before eating.

Serving Suggestions: Serve in baby cos lettuce leaves with a sprinkling of chopped parsley. If you are keto, feel free to up the amount of fat, which will only make it more luscious.

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.

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.

Roasted Taro

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In an impulsive fit, I bought a taro the other day and it languished in my fridge for days as I didn’t know what to do with it until I came across a recipe on The Paleo Mom for savoury roasted taro.

If you’ve never seen taro before, it looks very much like something you could imagine your prehistoric ancestors digging up, and then grunting excitedly to each other. Here’s one:

It is available from asian grocers and is a very popular ingredient in Chinese cooking and desserts, although I personally never understood the appeal of taro-based desserts. There is even a taro dim sum (it is the shape of a giant rice bubble, deep-fried with a brown lattice shell). They taste bland and starchy with a similar texture to that of potatoes except drier. Some people extol taro’s “complex flavour”. In terms of their nutrient profile, they are higher in carbs than potatoes (taro has 26g total carbs per 100g vs 17g in potatoes), 112 cal (taro) vs 77g (potato), higher in potassium, fibre and calcium. Taro has a similar profile to potatoes for iron, Vitamin B, magnesium, protein and sugar.

I chopped up my taro into quarters, leaving the skin on for the time being and cooked it in the pressure cooker using the steamer basket for 7 minutes. It could also be conventionally steamed for 10-12 minutes. You don’t want to overcook it otherwise it crumbles, so I cooked it until it had a texture similar to firm potatoes. Once cooked, the skin peels off easily. I chopped it into smaller pieces and tossed it in a large bowl with melted fat left over from roasting chicken (really tasty). Sprinkle with salt and put under the grill (broiler) for 15-20 minutes, turning once, until nicely browned. The edges crisp up deliciously. My favourite parts were the little chunks of taro which had broken off as they ended up uber-crunchy.

So would I eat them again? Maybe. If you can’t tolerate potatoes, taro is a good alternative. It would probably work better in a stew-type preparation as it can absorb the flavours.

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.

Smoky Spiced Eggplant and Capsicum Bhurta

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One of the podcasts I loved to listen to was Vinnie Tortorich’s show ‘The Angriest Trainer’. It has, bar none, the best opening theme of any podcast I’ve heard. Whoever thought to include the horse sound effect is a genius. The irreverent Angriest Trainer, “trainer to the stars”, doesn’t eat sugar or grains and characterises himself as a carnivorous vegan, because his diet includes loads of vegetables and meat. Contrary to what mass media would have you believe, there is a huge emphasis on non-starchy vegetables among paleo eaters, because vegetables are nutrient-dense and satiating and everyone agrees that it is a good thing to eat more vegetables.

Today’s recipe is inspired by the eggplants which are bountiful at the moment. I prefer the round eggplants rather than the long thin variety which I have sometimes found to be bitter and seedy. A bhurta is a lightly fried mixture of mashed vegetables. This eggplant version goes very nicely with lamb dishes.

Smoky Eggplant and Capsicum Bhurta

Ingredients

  • 2 medium eggplants (aubergines), cut in half lengthwise
  • 2 red capsicum, halved and deseeded
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2cm knob of ginger, peeled and grated
  • 2 cloves of garlic, grated
  • 2 large tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • parsley, coriander or basil, finely chopped, to serve

Line a large baking tray with foil. Brush with 1T of olive oil. Place the eggplants and capsicum on the tray – skin side up – and cook under the grill (broiler) for about 20-25 minutes until the flesh is soft and the skin is charred. Depending on the size of your eggplants, they may need more time than the capsicum. They need to be cooked until very soft.

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Allow eggplants to cool slightly, then scoop out the flesh and discard the skin. Peel the skin off the capsicum and discard skin. Chop the eggplants and capsicum roughly.

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Heat the remaining 1T olive oil in a large frying pan and sauté the onion until soft and translucent. Add the ginger, garlic, tomatoes, spices, eggplant, capsicum, salt and pepper and cook over medium heat for 6-8 minutes, stirring frequently. Serve immediately, sprinkled with parsley, coriander or basil.

Variety on the Paleo Diet: Nose to tail and things in between

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Personally I found that since going paleo, the amount of variety in my diet has drastically increased. Pre-paleo, I was under the illusion that I was eating a variety of foods because wheat can be processed in so many different ways, but it turns out that on a typical day I could have been eating wheat in one form or another at every meal.

When one goes paleo, one is encouraged to seek out new forms of protein and vegetables to keep from getting bored. It does take a bit of effort and a sense of adventure to commit to a new vegetable, but I say feel the fear and do it anyway.

Foods I ate rarely (or never tried) until going paleo:

  1. Leaf amaranth (a leafy vegie similar to spinach)
  2. Cabbage
  3. Cauliflower
  4. Liver (lamb, calf, chicken and duck)
  5. Roasted pig’s head
  6. Black pudding/morcilla
  7. Berries
  8. Grapefruit
  9. Pig trotter
  10. Brussel Sprouts

A criticism often made against paleo is that it is expensive. Like any diet, it can be expensive but it doesn’t have to be. You can eat grass-fed eye fillet every day, or you could enjoy grass-fed mince, at a fraction of the cost. My favourite local chinese BBQ joint sells roast pig’s head for $2 per half a head. It has a bunch of crackling and head meat plus the bones make a delicious bone broth.

For vegetables, I get my asian greens from asian grocers where they go for 70 cents to a dollar per bunch. In addition to the usual suspects, you will see greens that you’ve never eaten before and don’t even know the names of. Wombok is another asian leafy vegetable, a great option as it lasts for ages in the fridge (unlike the other asian greens which go limp after a couple of days) with a nice sweet, mild flavour. This is my go-to recipe for asian greens which we will have at least 3 times a week.

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Easy and Quick Stir-Fried Asian Greens

1/2 tablespoon coconut oil
1 bunch choy sum or bok choy, washed to remove all grit and cut into manageable pieces (halves or thirds) and well drained
2 thin slices of ginger
1 clove garlic, smashed with the back of a knife
salt
Shao Hsing Chinese cooking wine or dry sherry, a wee splash (can be omitted if you are doing the Whole30)

Heat coconut oil in a wok. When oil starts smoking, add the ginger and garlic immediately followed by the choy sum or bok choy. Stir frequently to prevent the greens at the base from burning, add the wine and a little salt and cook until wilted (around 2-3 minutes). I like to cook it so that it retains a bit of crunch left in the stems.

Shao Hsing wine contains wheat so if you are gluten-intolerant, either skip the alcohol or use dry sherry.

What foods do you enjoy now, that you never ate before?