Tomato, Chorizo and Peppers with a Poached Egg

The best breakfasts are spicy, and this is one I absolutely adore!

The blend of tomato, onion, chilli and chorizo is perfect marriage of ingredients, coupled with the soft oozing of egg yolk from a poached egg is sheer heaven!

Let's get breakfast ...

Slice up an onion into long shreds going with the grain and get these sautéing off in a frying pan with a little water. I use water rather than oil or fat since I want the onions to retain their natural flavour as much as possible.

Add in some slices of chorizo and continue to fry - the chorizo will release its olive oil and a spicy flavour from the paprika.

Add in a tin of peeled plum tomatoes and mash down to a consistency of pulp, stirring into the onion and chorizo. Add in some chilli - fresh, dried or sauce, whatever you have to hand. Cook this down until about half reduced.

Meanwhile, prepare a pan of boiling water and a good slosh of white distilled malt vinegar. This is for the poached egg, which should be done last. Crack an egg into a ramekin or small bowl in preparation.

Eggs should be free range at the very least, woodland reared are best since the chickens are left to roam, peck and scratch for grubs natural to their diet, and the taste difference is evident.

Once the dish is about half reduced, drop in some slices of red pepper and continue to reduce.

When the dish is almost completely reduced, lower the heat to keep it warm. The reduction will give a really deep, emulsified texture, not at all oily.

Bring the water to the boil and then drop the heat so that a gentle simmer is evident with smaller bubbles rising from through. Swirl the water gently to create a little whirlpool in the centre and then gently pour the egg into the swirling water which should spin the white around the yolk.

Poach the egg for a few minutes, keeping an eye on it so that you retrieve the egg with a draining spoon onto kitchen paper once the white has solidified, leaving the yolk runny.

Plate up with the tomato, chorizo and pepper in the middle of the plate and gently place the poached egg on top, cutting to release the yolk.



Parmigiana di Melanzane

Usually baked and served up as squares from a shallow oven dish, Parmigiana di Melanzane is sheer comfort food.

Deep aubergine, soft mozzarella, tangy tomatoes and salty parmesan.

My alternative take as individual portions ...

Slice up an aubergine. That's an eggplant as it is alternatively called. Slice across the fruit to make a number of circular portions about a centimetre thick.

Oil each aubergine slice individually and place onto a pre-heated griddle.

Meanwhile, slice up a couple of balls of mozzarella, grate some parmesan and drain the excess liquid from a tin of peeled plum tomatoes.

Place the drained tomatoes into a mixing bowl and break them up. Add in any flavours you want - chilli, garlic, caper, salt, pepper and herbs.

Once the aubergines are cooked through, soft but not soggy, place them on a large serving plate.

Layer up with slices of mozzarella, a spoon of the tomatoes and a little parmesan. Place under the grill for a short time - enough to just melt the parmesan.

Dress with fresh basil, a splash of extra virgin olive oil and a good grind of freshly milled black pepper.

I like to go an extra step and garnish with omelette flowers.

Omelette flowers?

Take an egg - just one, whisk it really well and add just a touch of water for a really thin mix, almost a batter.

Pour out into a small frying pan ensuring a really thin layer of egg. Cook through on one side, much like a crepe.

Remove from the frying pan onto a board, roll up and slice across to make rounds of omelette. Pull apart for ribbons.


Meatball Tagine

Tagine is a North African dish of Berber origin (Tajin) named after the earthenware pot within which it is cooked and the mainstay of Moroccan cuisine.

Traditionally, the tagine is made from heavy clay and needs curing by soaking in water before first use - see: iTagine, the tops often decorated and glazed. Moden tagines often feature a cast iron base.

The shape of the lid is designed so as to return cooking steam back to the base of the dish and the weight keeping the dish sealed. Think of the tagine as an ancient pressure cooker.

Tagines combine meat, spices, vegetables, fruit and herb garnishes in a slow-simmering over the coals of an open fire ... or the cooker hob in our case. Cooked, the dish should be a deep, complex and warming meal brough to the table in the base, the lid removed and the heady, steamy aroma enjoyed as a precursor to the meal eaten from the base itself, or spooned over couscous on an individual plate.

Don your Fez, we're off to Casablanca ...

First, something to serve the dish over: the couscous. Again, of Berber origin (Seksu, meaning well rolled, formed and rounded), couscous is made from millet so not a lot of use to paleo people.

One obvious substitution is cauliflower couscous, finely grated and slightly dried in an oven before warming through in a dry frying pan.

So, to the tagine itself.

First, make the meatballs by placing a pound or more of lamb mince into a mixing bowl and adding in some spices - ground coriander and cumin, a little salt and maybe some white pepper. Squeeze the meat between your fingers a few times to ensure that the spices are combined and the meat is broken down a little. Form little meatballs about the size of large marbles.

Begin by browning the meatballs off in the tagine base with a little dripping or coconut oil, adding in a chopped onion to soften, some minced garlic and shaved fennel. Shaved? I do this with a vegetable peeler. Fennel adds in a subtle flavour which works in the background, rounding off all the other flavours.

Pour in a carton of chopped tomatoes and perhaps a little puree to thicken and compound the tomato flavours.

Slice some carrot and courgette and fold in.

Finally, add a good handful of olives.

Lid on ... low heat for a couple of hours, or more; timing is simply not an issue with a tagine, so just let it cook away happily.

Serve out over the cauliflower couscous and garnish with fresh coriander leaves and a further pinch of cumin.


Cod with Puy Lentils

Puy lentils, a Protected Designation of Origin green lentil variety from the Le Puy region of France owes its distinct character to the terroir within which it grows.

Lentils are part of the Fabaceae or Leguminosae family: legumes, and as such have no place in the paleo diet, yet are tentatively acceptable as part of what I would call a paleo+ diet.

Legumes as a family represent a wide spectrum. When considering food sources, one does need to look at the whole, the big picture - red kidney beans represent the most toxic end of the spectrum, while lentils represent the least toxic. Beyond paleo Archevore author Kurt Harris makes no mention of legumes, in fact, considers them a useful food source although not ideal.

Legumes MUST be prepared by soaking and then pressure cooking. Canned legumes will have already been soaked and then pressure cooked, or super-heated with steam.

While meat, fish and eggs are on the table, why eat off the plate? Well, lentils could be considered an interested texture or flavour boosting protein calories (include the essential amino acids isoleucine and lysine), as well as acting as a ready source of dietary fibre, folate, Vitamin B1 and a number of trace minerals, notably iron.

Puy lentils lend a unique flavour and pleasant texture to all manner of meals, white fish particularly.

Begin by melting some butter in a skillet and softening a chopped onion or shredded leek. Toss in a clove or two of minced garlic.

Pour in a can of Puy lentils.

Enhance the umami flavours with a touch of tomato purée and a good splash of Worcestershire Sauce. Add a little water and let the lentils simmer.

Meanwhile, prepare the fish and potatoes.

Peel some new potatoes and get them boiling in a pan of water.

Line a steamer pan with tin foil and place the fish portions in there. The foil will protect the fish from the fierce steam as well as enabling the fish to be removed to a flat board for easy transference to the plate.

About 6 minutes before the potatoes are expected to be ready, salt the fish, place the lid on the steamer pan and place over the boiling potatoes.

When ready, reduce the liquid in the lentil skillet, remove the fish steamer pan, drain off the potatoes and add in a good knob of butter to coat the potatoes.

Plate up - lentils in the middle, fish placed gently over and surrounded by buttered boiled potatoes. Sprinkle chopped parsley over.