Rainbow Trout & Prawns in a Coconut Cream, Chilli & Lime Bisque

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Occasionally something will happen which makes me realise how extremely unfit I am for a life in the wild. Not too long ago, I was bushwalking in the National Park and took a wrong turn, which ended up in us still being out in the bush well after sunset without food, shelter or a torch. What started out as a jaunty rumble in the forest looked like turning into a forced overnight stay with only leeches for company, and we started staking out possible sites for shelter. The main thing keeping me going, trying to find my way out, was that I didn’t want to become one of those bushwalkers who appear on the nightly news, walking sheepishly out of the park after being rescued by emergency services. In the park, I thought about what I would do for food, and wondered what my ancestors would have done. If it came down to hunting or gathering, I fall firmly in the gathering camp, and if I were forced to hunt, I think I’d prefer to try my hand at fishing rather than killing mammals.

For years, the only way I cooked fish was how I remembered it from my childhood: whole, steamed (though I cooked it en papillote in the microwave), with ginger, shallot and soy sauce. Lately I’ve been experimenting with different ways of cooking fish and this recipe is a keeper. First you make a quick creamy, zesty broth infused with Thai flavours. This stage can be done the day before, for an even quicker weekday dinner. Then just add the seafood and simmer until just cooked. I keep an eagle-eye on it as it is cooking as I don’t fancy overcooked seafood, and keeping the heat low will help.

Any type of fish would work in this recipe – salmon, monkfish, barra would all be perfect. However if your fillets are thick, cut into 1-1.5cm thick pieces so that they will cook in around the same time as the prawns.

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Rainbow Trout & Prawns in a Coconut Cream, Chilli & Lime Bisque

Serves 2

  • 2 rainbow trout fillets, de-boned (around 130g each)
  • 8 raw prawns, peeled and deveined (keep the heads)
  • 1/2 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1 small red chilli (bullet), de-seeded and finely chopped
  • 7cm length of lemongrass, smashed (optional)
  • 200ml coconut cream (coconut milk would work too)
  • Zest and juice from half a lime
  • 100ml chicken or fish stock
  • 2 Tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 Tbsp chopped coriander

Method

  1. Heat the coconut oil in a medium saucepan, add the onion and cook for 4-5 minutes until the onion has softened. I find that adding a tablespoon of water at the beginning helps the onions to soften without burning.
  2. Add garlic, coconut cream, stock, chilli, lemongrass, fish sauce and prawn heads. Simmer for 6-8 minutes to allow the flavours to meld and infuse, and to reduce a little. The bisque will turn a pretty pale coral colour from the prawn heads. Add the trout, prawns and lime zest and simmer for several minutes until the seafood is cooked. Remove the prawn heads and discard.
  3. Garnish with the chopped coriander.

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

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.

Transitioning to Paleo

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So you’ve heard about this paleo diet and want to give it a try, or perhaps a colleague at work has gone Paleo and is looking trim, or you’ve done the calorie-counting thing and are sick of losing and gaining the same 5 or 10 kilos and am ready to try something new and sustainable, like going paleo! Where to begin? You could take baby steps, or could plunge right in. Most people find it easier to make a gradual change, I know I did. Undoing decades of misinformation and ingrained beliefs about what is and isn’t supposed to be good for you can be stressful, so take it easy and try to enjoy the challenge.

Here are some painless steps towards transitioning to a paleo diet:

  • Switch from margarine to butter.
  • Instead of cooking with vegetable and seed oils, use coconut oil or ghee. I like Spiral Organic Coconut Oil from Woolworths as it doesn’t have strong coconut flavour. I have tried other coconut oils which make everything I cook taste of coconut, which gets old pretty quickly.
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  • Instead of store-bought salad dressings which contain unhealthy vegetable oils, make your own dressings with extra virgin olive oil, macadamia oil, avocado oil, and balsamic or wine vinegar.
  • Eat eggs for breakfast every day. Boiled, fried, scrambled, whatever. Boiled eggs make a great snack on the go. They’ll fill you up, provide protein and don’t omit the yolk! It is one of the most nutrient dense foods you can get.
  • Give up soft drinks (including diet drinks) and juice. Drink water or green tea instead.
  • Introduce more non-starchy vegetables into your meals. I like broccoli or spinach for breakfast.


Next step is going paleo one meal at a time. Breakfast is usually the hardest because most of the breakfast foods available at the supermarket contain grain and sugar. But it is easier if you stop thinking of breakfast as a time where you need to eat “breakfast foods”, and think of it as any other meal.

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The hardest thing to give up for most people is wheat, which is ubiquitous. When I mention I don’t eat wheat, people often ask “well, what do you eat then?” I say “meat, vegetables, fish, nuts, fruit.” Most people can’t contemplate a life without bread, but those who have given it up and feel terrific can’t contemplate a life with it.

You will need to be prepared and have paleo alternatives at the ready. I prefer not to give up something without knowing what I will eat in its place otherwise I am susceptible to making poor choices. At 1pm on a weekday, in a food court, when your stomach is grumbling and you have all of 30 minutes to locate, capture and digest your prey and walk back across the plains to rejoin your tribe is not the moment to decide that you are going to go paleo. Because there will be bread, wraps, pies, pasta, and pastry everywhere you look and it is going to get stressful.

On the other hand, if you are the type of person who doesn’t like to do things by halves, or are dealing with digestive or auto-immune issues and want to plunge head-first into strict paleo, check out the Whole 30 program. It is basically an elimination diet with a list of foods to eliminate for 30 days – no dairy, grains, sugar/sweeteners or soy. The Whole 30 is stricter than what most paleo-eaters follow on a day to day basis, but if you suspect you may have any undiagnosed food intolerances or IBS, the Whole30 can help you find out what foods are causing you grief. It also helps you to acclimatise to the spirit of paleo and to overcome sugar addictions by going cold turkey.

Check out our Whole30 compliant meals here.

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.

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?