Cod Shito

Okay ... erm ... Shito?

I'm glad you asked - it's Ghanaian. You know, from Ghana. Africa.

It's ground shrimp, chillies and oil.

Drop a teaspoon of the stuff into a broth and you've got a hot HOT soup! Drop a couple of teaspoons and it's starting to tickle my fancy ... a couple of tablespoons and it's right up my street, on my table and being gobbled down!

I must say, I don't know very much at all about African cooking. I guess it's pretty primal - stews made from meat, fish, stock and vegetables and very much supplemented with ground cassava and yams.

I know about Fufu, a large ball of cassava root, ground and set to cook in a pot of stew, pieces broken off, hollowed and used to scoop up the good food in the stew. This is primal ... this is paleo+ and a lot of fun every so often.

More centrist paleo would just like a hot fish stew, so here goes ...

Make up a broth, however it is that you do.

Drop in a few teaspoons of Shito. I got mine from the supermarket - check out the World Foods section and look for Africa.

Add in a good pack of herbs - I used parsley.

Finally, cube up some fish and drop it in to cook through - I used cod.

Slice up some greens - I used green beans.

Green beans? Yes, that's a legume - I know ... leave it out if you don't want it, but I would encourage you to read Mark Sissons' article of green beans and peas: Are Peas and Green Beans Healthy?

Once cooked, serve out into bowls. Garnish with eggs - this "just works".

Enjoy! But don't breathe in as you eat!


Stuffed Marrow

Cultivated in England and closely related to the courgette, marrow is a large, slightly oval, green summer squash which can grow to the size of a watermelon. Think of it as a monster courgette.

The flavour is subtle, yet often described as bland - thin slices gently steamed as a base for fish, or for layering in a Cottage Pie will show off their flavour, but all too often it is regarded as bland and so stuffing with a flavoursome meat sauce is a really good way of enjoying this food.

Let's get stuffed ...

Make up a flavoursome meat sauce by simmering ground beef, lamb or pork with onion, garlic, generous spoon of tomato puree and chopped mushroom, maybe a splash of Worcestershire Sauce, or simply enhanced with a little anchovy paste. The meat should be ready to eat and as much liquid removed as possible before stuffing the marrow.

Cut the ends off the marrow and using a long knife scoop out the middle to make a fat tube.

Place one end back on and hold it in place with tin foil.

Up end the marrow and fill it with the meat packing it down as you go.

Place the other end on, hold it in place with tin foil and then cover the middle with tin foil also.

Bake in an oven set to 180C for 20-30 minutes depending upon the size of the marrow and thickness of the walls.

Remove from the oven, cut into slices a couple of inches thick and present on a long plate with a few spoons of soured cream over the top. Accompany with some fried tubers - parnsip chips are great!

If you are particularly dexterous, you could do this with a couple of large courgettes.


Cauliflower Stalk Soup au Pistou

Cauliflower stalks need not be discarded to the compost heap or simply fed to the pigs!

A simple, delicious and nutritious soup can be made by simply simmering chopped stalks with onion in bouillion. Served with a pistou for a punch of flavour - gorgeous!

Let's get pistou'd up ...

Pistou? Don't you mean pesto? No! I mean pistou - the French blend of garlic, basil, extra virgin olive oil and a little salt. That's how you make it - quick and easy! Use lots of basil and a good number of cloves of garlic, blending together while pouring in extra virgin olive oil, salting to taste.

That's the pistou ... now the soup.

Clean up the cauliflower stalks, trimming the leaves to about half an inch either side of the stalk for the outer stalks and leaving the inner stalks intact with leaves. Chop the stalks into really thin slices.

Slice an onion into really thin slices and add to a pan of hot bouillon along with the cauliflower stalks.

Bouillon? Oh, come on ... what's wrong with salted water? Well, a bouillon is a broth made from a simmering of mirepoix, bouquet garni and some bones. Mirepoix? Bouquet garni? Now you're really taking the pistou! Here's a cheat - you can buy powered bouillion which only needs a generous tablespoon in a litre of water. If you wanted to make up your own, it's onion, celery and carrots (the mirepoix), thyme, bay and sage tied together (the bouquet garni), some bones and water - simmer for a few hours to extract all the flavour, freeze excess as appropriate.

Anyway, to get back to the point in hand ... simply simmer the onion and cauliflower stalk for a few minutes until softened, while retaining a little crunch.

Serve into a wide bowl and drop a generous spoonful of pistou into the middle.

C'est si bon! Non?


Pickled Herring Salad

Pickled herring is a Scandinavian delicacy and enjoyed further afield throughout Europe and Russia.

I absolutely adore pickled herrings, a taste I picked up travelling in Sweden. Back in Blighty, a good resource is IKEA.

Let's dress up some fish ...

Lettuce, tomato, cucumber and egg are perfect accompaniments and you can serve your herring simply with an arranged salad.

You could stack them up and garnish with a prawn, or two, and a short slice of red onion. Make each stack unique with a different flavour - celery salt over one, paprika over another and tumeric over another.

You could make up sauces with those flavours from mayonnaise or soured cream to pour over.

Likewise, a vinaigrette of Scandinavian lingonberry and apple vinegar with some colourful gourmet cold pressed extra virgin rapeseed oil with chopped parsley and dill spooned over gives a nice sharp tang.

Either way, serve with Scandinavian or Russian Vodka, or Brennivín.



Harissa Chicken

Harissa is a Tunisian spice paste made from a blend of chillis, garlic, herbs and other spices.

Rose Harissa is a gourmet paste that has the inclusion of rose petals, giving a deep colour as well as offsetting the unnecessary burn of the chilli.

The result? One seriously flavoursome paste which retains a good kick!

There are a number of recipes that you could follow to make your own Harissa, but they're all pretty much grinding down chillis, garlic, herbs and spices down in a pestle and mortar, adding in rose petals, grinding some more and softening it all up with oil.

I buy mine. I like the Belazu brand: "Rose petals are one of over forty spices added to give this paste its unique aroma and complex, yet unmistakably spicy, taste. Harissa was originally a staple of Tunisian cooking but is used throughout North Africa as a seasoning or condiment. It has a hot kick to it but the rose petals in the sauce provide a unique balance to the chilli heat."

Harissa can be spread over meat and roasted, added to soups and stews, spread over flat bread, the options almost limitless.

Here, we're going to combine it with yoghurt and marinate some chicken ...

Prepare the previous day.

Cut a couple of chicken breasts or thighs into pieces and place in a dish, cover with natural yoghurt that has been mixed with a couple of tablespoons of harissa and leave overnight to marinate.

The yoghurt will tenderise the chicken resulting in a soft, sumptuous dish.

Roughly chop an onion and place into an oven proof dish, spooning the chicken and yoghurt over.

Cook in the oven for 20 minutes at 200C.

Serve out over cauliflower couscous - heads of cauliflower grated and dried out slightly in the oven.


Baked Chilli Tortilla

Requiring both tortillas and a bechamel sauce, this dish relies heavily upon sorghum flour.

Sorghum flour is produced by grinding the seeds of amaranth grass from the flowers.

Seed - that's the important word. As a food source, it is used extensively on the Indian sub-continent, and as a potential paleo food source, it is gluten-free and has a lower phytate content and a lower lectin content than traditional grains.

First, let's get the Chilli con Carne going: Chilli Con Carne or Texas Chilli

Second, make up some tortilla following my recipe here: Sorghum Tortilla

Third, make up a bechamel sauce.

Bechamel is the simple combination of butter, flour and milk and heightened with a touch of nutmeg.

Melt some butter in a pan - a centimetre slice off the end of a block of butter will do just fine.

Sprinkle some flour into the butter and whisk. Still sloppy? Add more flour. Once the flour balls up and looks as if you should discard it and try again, pour in a little milk and whisk ... a little more milk, still whisking and a little more, until the sauce has come around to a thick sloppy sauce. About half to two thirds of a pint of milk is required. Spice with a little nutmeg.

Wrap the Chilli Con Carne in the sorghum tortilla and place into an ovenproof dish.

Pour over the bechamel sauce.

Sprinkle grated cheese over and commit to a pre-heated over set to 180C for about 20 minutes to cook through, soften the tortilla and melt the cheese.

Serve out and enjoy this thick, comforting meal.