Early May in our paleo home and organic garden.

Neil (aka pasta man) and I have had a wonderful weekend working in the garden, finally the summer crops are over (actually there are still a couple of tomatoes, 1 zucchini, chillies and some eggplants producing fruit) but we had plenty of room to transplant seedling lettuces, spinach and purple broccoli and plant garlic and shallots. We’re not growing as large a crop of garlic or shallots this year because we aren’t eating that many of them anymore (I mainly use them for flavouring and then take them out) but I can’t imagine cooking without those vital ingredients! I’ve been buying garlic shoots from the asian grocer but wonder what exactly are they? I must look them up on google! The shoots are great as I can eat them without any tummy complaints and they have a lovely garlicky flavour. I made a new batch of kimchi last weekend and it’s just stopped the most volatile stage of the fermentation process (gassy bubbles) today so I can divide it up into smaller jars and complete the process in the fridge. The kraut ferment I made last week has settled down (not overflowing anymore) but it will take a few more weeks before it is ready to bottle up (I need to taste it before I decide the next phase of the process), I like ferments to be crunchy, salty and sour and the best thing about making my own is being able to tailor them to my taste buds. I found the bought ferments overpowering and not fresh tasting!

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Living and cooking the paleo way can be simple and /or complicated and I find I need to plan ahead and cook a little extra so I have some easy options to replace the old takeaway or times when I just don’t feel like cooking. Eggs are always the easy option and scrambled eggs or an omelette are our takeaway these days (or a stir fry). I have always been a big believer in breakfast & I used to be  adamant that my children ate breakfast, after all wasn’t it the most important meal of the day, and how can you concentrate at work or school if you haven’t any fuel on board? Well after eating the paleo way for about 6 months now I find I just don’t want to eat breakfast anymore, so I wait until lunch time to eat and I don’t even miss breakfast or get hungry until lunch time, now that is amazing for me! Anyway, I’ve been listening to my body and letting go of old rules and been surprised by the results, my appetite has changed drastically since reverting to fat as a fuel source instead of carbs or sugar. I’m currently on week 3 of The Paleo Way 10 week challenge and listened to an interesting talk by Dr Mercola on the need to and health benefits of having a regular 16 hour fasting period of which missing breakfast is way to go! What the? I’ve figured this out on my own and now have confirmation that by listening to my body I am making “right” decisions for me. He also bangs on about not eating too much protein and that approx 100gm a day is plenty to sustain a healthy disposition, I’ve been gradually cutting down my protein consumption and if I eat more than 100gm can feel uncomfortable and know I have “overdone” it. From now on I need to watch my protein consumption and eat mindfully.

This leads me to cooking – this weekend (and last weekend too) I made a slow cooked lamb shoulder (is 10 – 12  hours slow enough for you?) and been thrilled with the result, not only is it easy peasy to make but totally delicious to eat! It might not be a pretty dish to serve but my guests have been very happy with the flavour and texture of this meal. I  used the Pete Evans’ Lazy Man’s Lamb shoulder recipe as an approximate guide but put my own slant on it with more vegetables and even quinces in my second attempt! I must say I am a little over lamb at the moment and so we are having calamari tonight!

While foraging for herbs in our garden yesterday (for the lamb shoulder) I noticed that the olives were ready to be harvested, so I picked the two trees we have but then arises the question – what on earth do I do with them? Last year I tried 2 very different methods both of which did NOT work and so after talking to the olive guru – Andy Goddard – decided to do things his way and that is to put the olives straight into brine and forget about them for 6 months. I thought I had enough to do yesterday but managed to get the olives ready for the fermentation process, I must say this is by far the easier option for preserving olives (as opposed to changing the water every day or second day) and I seriously hope it works for  me as this will mean I have enough olives for a whole year. Just how cool would it be to grow and ferment your own olives, the only problem being that they need 6 months or more fermenting to be edible! I mean really? Who on earth figured this out?

I’ve been meaning to feed the vegetable crops and fruit trees with seasol and worm juice for weeks now and today I did it (with Neil’s help), don’t know why I put it off for so long as I get quite a buzz from feeding our garden. We are going to buy some BD 500, it’s a biodynamic fertiliser made from fermented cow manure and is a super powerful growth agent – well it is certainly worth a try! I will let you know how it goes, so bye for now, until next we meet…..

“Change in the weather”

“Change in the weather…change in the weather …somethings happening here..”

It’s the Easter holiday break and the Bellarine Peninsula is busy busy busy with holiday makers enjoying the last of the warm weather. We’ve been busy in the garden pulling up the summer crops to prepare for the autumn and winter vegetables. The pumpkin and zucchini plants look horrible covered in mould and aphids but are still producing so we’ll wait a bit longer to pull them up (I’d like to get rid of them to make the garden look nicer). I haven’t sprayed the aphids (I would have used pyrethrum and soap) as there are a few aphid eating ladybirds around and I definitely don’t want to harm them. There are a few tomato plants still producing but it won’t be long until they come out too. We planted radish (little pink ones and the large daikon), 3 types of spinach, carrot, mixed heritage lettuce, beetroot, turnip, parsnip and purple broccoli seed and kale, cauliflower, romanescu broccoli, wombok, parsley, lettuce (cos) seedlings and flowers as companion plants. It’s not the best time of year for garden beauty, the sunflowers and hollyhocks look ragged and I’d love to pull them out but I want to collect some seeds, so I have to be patient and let nature take its course. The citrus trees are looking really good, loads of lemon, oranges, cumquats, limes and even some mandarines (our first ones) and 2 baby grapefruit which is rather exciting. Oh and we have our first 2 passionfruit on the vine, now that is very cool, I’ve tried to grow passionfruit unsuccessfully over the years and then Phoebe gave me a plant last year for my birthday and it’s taking over the citrus trellis! Neil built another trellis structure for the kiwi fruits (he used the metal poles from the old trampoline), so now we wait for them to grow – in my imagination I see the vines covering the trellis with beautiful golden kiwi fruits hanging down. We used to grow an assortment of berries when we lived in the bush but I didn’t think we had enough room here however the berry scandal (fancy getting hepatitis from eating frozen berries!) prompted me to grow some blueberries. It’s hard to make a choice there are so many varieties,  I chose a Denise and a Northland and they are growing just fine, my goal is to grow enough to eat and freeze – they are seriously good for you.

I’m still heavily into the paleo way of living and my cooking has changed so much! I’ve never really been into the whole chocolate Easter situation – as the usual chocolates are pretty ghastly – and so I’ve not had any trouble saying no thanks BUT I’ve been making a paleo style chocolate nut and fruit slice (using cocao and carob) and that is seriously hard to say no too (it’s still a treat and not to be eaten all the time). We’re eating our way through my ferments so I made another crock of kraut and some water kimchi this week – my kimchi e-book (The Kimchi Cookbook by Lauryn Chun) boasts 60 different recipes which I hope to explore over the next few years – so much fun experimenting with fermentation.

I was wondering what to make for dinner tonight, I had some left over beef koftas and teemed them with a rich tomato and garden vegetable sauce and made some zucchini noodles with my spiraliser (even Pasta man likes the zucchini noodles) and all from the garden! All paleo, nutritious and super delicious!

I am also very pleased to say that at last I can make a decent mayonnaise (I make a fermented one that is light, smooth and delicious) – with my dutch heritage mayonnaise is very much a part of our eating culture but it’s impossible to buy mayonnaise that is chemical or “bad oil” free so I’m pretty happy with my new mayo making skill. As a matter of fact I have to make some right now…..

 

 

The autumn garden & paleo cracker recipe

So autumn is here and wow what a mild summer it was, the air conditioner has only been on once! The vegetable garden is producing loads of tomatoes, zucchinis, eggplants, carrots, beetroot, assorted greens and purple king beans. I was really pleased with the tomato crop this year mainly because I grew them from seed collected from a couple of tomatoes given to me last summer. I am definitely going to save seeds and raise our own seedlings from now on. The majority of tomatoes have been turned into many litres of tomato puree and ratatouille and luckily our old freezer – which we haven’t used for about 7 years – started up like a charm, it’s already 3/4 full of tomatoes, peaches and apricots and may even fill before the season ends. Don’t know what I would have done without that old freezer because I have a paleo dilemma, I usually make an assortment of chutneys, relishes and sauces but they use up copious amounts of sugar and the paleo diet is pretty much sugar free, so how do I preserve all our beautiful tomatoes? I decided to cook them then strain the mix to get out the skin and some seeds and freeze this puree, I can still make preserves later on if I want to or we have enough tomato puree for a whole year at least. I did make 2 batches of kasoundi – I just had to – that stuff is awesome (recipe is listed) and it’s not so heavy on the sugar as some of my other recipes! Our biggest tomato so far weighed in at 848 grams, apparently that is small in the large vegetable category but it’s the amount of large tomatoes that is mind boggling, as soon as I clear the decks Neil comes in with more and more tomatoes.

I’ve had a lot of fun experimenting with the fermentation process and have a continuos supply of milk kefir, fermented garlic, chilli sauce, horseradish sauce, mayonnaise and assorted kimchi and kraut concoctions. My taste buds and stomach are getting used to these unusual foods, I actually crave them now, I even had some for breakfast this morning! I love that fermented foods are jam packed with goodness, delicious to eat in a strange way and I made them myself from our own or out sourced organic produce! Having an assortment of fermented foods to use as condiments will hopefully replace our old chutney, sauce & relish habit and they are a much healthier alternative.

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I’ve been very remiss with my blog writing for a few months now but I’ve been researching, experimenting and adjusting to the paleo way of life and just didn’t know what to write. If you follow the paleo lifestyle then sugar, dairy, grains and legumes are omitted, this may seem daunting but the transition has been relatively pain free for me as I love eating loads of vegetables with good quality protein and fats, honestly I don’t intend to preach but I feel so darn good and satisfied, that’s the only way to describe it, a deep feeling of satisfaction and I eat less because I am not hungry! I probably spend more time in the kitchen because I make absolutely EVERYTHING and we rarely eat out, but at least I know what’s in our food and growing, harvesting and cooking our produce or sourcing organic produce, grass fed meats and wild fish is so much fun! I make one or two batches of dry biscuits or crackers each week, they take about 20 minutes and are so easy, I was asked for the cracker recipe which will follow but I must add that each batch I make is different because of the range of spices, seeds and flavours that make each batch individual. My favourite flavour is black / white sesame seeds but finely grated parmesan cheese is nice too (but it’s not strictly paleo).


Paleo cracker recipe
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Recipe type: savoury biscuits
Cuisine: paleo
Author:
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
These crackers are crisp and tasty and are wheat, dairy and sugar free.
Ingredients
  • 1 cup of almond meal
  • 2 tablespoons of ground linseed
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 tablespoon of oil - olive or macadamia
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 - 2 tablespoons of flavouring of your choice such as grated parmesan cheese, sesame seeds, assorted spices or savoury yeast flakes - experiment!
Instructions
  1. Grind the linseed (I use my nutribullet which does a great job) and add to the almond meal
  2. Add the other ingredients and mix until a firm ball of dough is formed
  3. The mix should not be wet and if so add a little more almond meal
  4. Divide the mixture in half and roll out between 2 sheets of baking paper
  5. I like to roll it very thin but you could have them a little thicker if you want (they may take a few minutes longer to cook though)
  6. Take the top layer of paper off and cut the dough into shapes of your liking
  7. Leave the dough on the bottom layer of baking paper and place on a biscuit tray in the oven
  8. Bake in a moderate oven for 10 - 12 minutes
  9. The dough should be crisp and golden when cooked
  10. Cool on a cooling rack and place in an airtight container for storage
  11. Cook the other batch as above
  12. I usually make a double batch because they go so fast
  13. They stay fresh for days!

 

Paleo challenge – crackers (dry biscuits)

I’m learning about this new way of living (Paleo) by researching and trying new products and recipes so I thought I would write about my travels down this gastronomic road and share some of the pitfalls and best recipes that I find. I tried to make my own recipes but that was way too difficult so I’m content to play with other cook’s recipes and add a little of myself as I go! These ingredients are just so different, some are an acquired taste and my perception of how food should look, smell and taste is evolving. I’m not going to give you recipes because they are not mine but I will tell you where to source them. I’m loving the energy this lifestyle is creating and so for today’s topic – crackers….

Who doesn’t like the odd dry biscuit or cracker with dips/cheese or whatever, but try to buy some without wheat /sugar or chemicals! I found some delicious organic / wheat free crackers in the health food shops but they are so very expensive so I thought I’d try making them. My first batch of crackers came from a recipe I found on a website – glutenfreecooking.com – the author is Terri Gruss – a gluten free cooking expert. The parmesan crackers used ground almonds and flax meal as the base, it was bound together by egg white. It was a very easy recipe to make and only took 15 minutes to cook. My naturopath Belinda suggested using yeast flakes to replace the parmesan cheese and either way they turned out delicious.

My next recipe attempt came out of Pete Evans cookbook – Family Food – the recipe for seed crackers is on page 204. I made the basic recipe and added some fennel seeds and smoky paprika. This recipe is a lot more complicated than the parmesan crackers above but well worth the effort, first you have to soak the seeds o’night before blending them a bit and baking them in a very low oven for 6 hours. The recipe makes 2 large trays of crackers and they keep really well, we’re still eating the ones I made 2 weeks ago. I like these crackers a lot, they are very much like the expensive ones from the organic shop but at a fraction of the cost, and I actually enjoy making them!

My second batch of seed crackers from “Family Food” was a bit more exotic, this time I added spirulina and dulse flakes for the seaweed style cracker. Apart from the amazing colour of the biscuits I like the idea of adding these super foods to our diet, I used golden flax (dark brown ones in the last batch) and black sesame seeds too, this mixture turned out thicker and wetter than the previous mixure, not sure if it was the golden flaxseeds or the addition of the spirulina and dulse flakes, but it took longer to cook and I even returned the biscuits to the oven after I cut them up (so they would crisp up). That’s cooking though I can follow the same recipe and each time it still turns out a little (or a lot) different, sometimes things work out and sometimes they don’t. I’ve got the next few blogs stirring in my head so watch out for a review of the meat loaf and my adventures into making yoghurt, kimchi, kefir and pastry without flour.

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Food for health (the Paleo way)

It’s been ages since my last blog for two reasons – 1. my iPad won’t upload photos into my site (but I’ve found another way to load photos) and 2. because I’ve been going through a “moment” regarding my relationship with food. You can tell from my ramblings that I absolutely love anything to do with food (cooking, growing, sourcing & experimenting), it’s a very important part of who I am and so I wondered do I cook to live or live to cook? Am I doing the best I can to look after my health? Is my love of food turning into an addiction or obsession and impacting detrimentally upon my health (rising blood glucose and cholesterol levels & irritable bowel symptoms). I was slowly putting on weight, found it impossible to lose weight and was struggling with unexplained muscle pain. My sister-in-law put me onto a book – Wheat Belly by cardiologist Dr William Davis – this book blew my mind and so I experimented eating this way for a while; it was going well until I had an IBS attack that lasted for days, so I tried the FODMAP diet for allergies and then a combination of the wheat free and FODMAP but I was getting very confused and losing my way, so off I went to a naturopath for some advice. I hadn’t been to a naturopath for years and was delighted with Belinda’s caring approach. She really listened to me, asked me lots of questions and then suggested I follow the Paleo way of eating for a month (while still leaving out foods that obviously upset my stomach). So…more research… what is Paleo? – I read Primal Body Primal Mind – quite a heavy book to read – written by Nora Gedgauras and  began following Chef Pete Evans (Paleo Guru) while learning to adapt to life with no sugar, low carbohydrate, no diary (apart from yoghurt) and no legumes. I needed to source organic / chemical free produce, grass feed meat, wild seafood and nutrient dense foods like seeds, nuts and fermented foods like kimchi. I needed help with recipes and ideas, Belinda (my naturopath) put me onto some great websites (like Nom Nom Paleo) and foodstuffs like cashew nut cheese (YUM), yeast flakes, Spirulina and others I found myself – cocoa nibs and activated nuts from Totally Nuts (have to be the BEST nuts ever!).

We won’t have any trouble sourcing organic vegetables and fruit when our garden starts pumping but at the moment we’ve only got greens (spinach, silverbeet, assorted salad leaves, herbs and broad beans). I’d heard about a farm in Lovely Banks called Magic Meadows that sells organic produce 2 days a week at a reasonable price and for the last month we’ve been making the journey to purchase organic and spray free vegetables and fruit, the quality of the produce is really very good, especially the strawberries, carrots, cucumbers and beetroot. I bought some organic meat and chicken (from the organic shop in Geelong), it’s quite expensive, I wish we had access to the fabulous markets and produce they have in Melbourne. The farmer’s markets usually have organic meat suppliers and I purchased some Sage Organic beef sausages and lamb shanks at the Bellarine Farmers Market last Saturday (held monthly in Ocean Grove).

Main meals aren’t that difficult cooking the Paleo way but try to make desserts or bread substitutes, cakes and biscuits without flour, sugar or butter – very challenging indeed. My experimenting has paid off to a certain extent, I have yet to find a wheat free bread that really works but some of the sweet treats are absolutely delicious – date & nut balls, nut slice, strawberry bliss balls.

I am really enjoying learning more about health, food and nutrition and experimenting with new products. I’ve changed too, I no longer feel ravenous, don’t crave sweet things, no more snacking, I feel full and satisfied and the muscle pain I’ve had for years has gone! I am excited about cooking and enjoying my food even more than before!

I purchased Pete Evans Paleo inspired cookbook – Family Food – and am slowly making my way through the recipes while reading Femented by Jill Ciciarelli and Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz. I am looking forward to learning about and making fermented goods – like yoghurt, sauerkraut, kimchi and vinegar and would love to have a go at making my own soap too (my friend Nellie gave me some of her home-made soap made with olive oil and caustic soda only, it was so lovely!) Anyway enough rambling for today……

Below are photos of Paleo style main meals we’ve been enjoying of late…