Tagine with Cauliflower Couscous

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, 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. Think your ingredients through - the dish should be dressed up and pretty to look at.

Begin with browning any meat and placing in the tagine.

Next, make the spicy sauce - onions and tomatoes as the base, spiced with coriander, cumin, cayenne pepper, maybe cinnamon and some salt. Add in any other vegetables that will form the sauce. Pour over the meat in the tagine.

Now it gets fun! Slice, dice or form any other ingredients - slices of carrot or courgette, cubes of aubergine, round prunes, olives, slices of preserved lemons, as examples. Arrange in the dish in a pattern - your imagination should go wild. Garnish with chopped or sliced chillis, herbs and maybe some pickled or preserved items.

Put the lid on and place on the hob at a high heat until it comes up to heat, then turn right down and leave it sit for a couple of hours.

Bring to the table on a heavy wooden board, couscous in a bowl.

Play it again, Sam!


Apple Sauce Condiment

Apple sauce is a simple and delicious accompaniment to pork.

Outdoor reared pork deserves better than the sugar-laced off the shelf versions; your body deserves better. In fact, apple sauce has some medicinal properties; an old-fashioned remedy for digestive discomfort.

Let's make up some apple sauce ...

One or two cooking apples will be perfectly sufficient for two people. Peel the apples if you like, but certainly core them, chop them into inch squares ensuring that all the woodiness from the middle is removed.

Place the cubes into a pan, add a splash of water and place onto the hob on a low heat, turning the apple pieces every so often until soft.

Modern varieties of fruit are already sweet enough but if you want more, a teaspoon of honey for a couple of apples is perfectly sufficient.

Is honey primal? Well, I'll link to a couple of resources and you can make your own mind up:
http://www.marksdailyapple.com/is-honey-a-safer-sweetener/ ... I tend to think so.

Add a splash of cider vinegar and some spice - allspice, or just cinnamon is fine.

Serve in a ramekin for an individual helping or in a communal bowl or jar on the table.

Apple sauce us very easy to make up as required and a fresh batch can be made within the cooking time for many cuts of pork, but if you wanted to keep the surplus it will be fine for a week or so kept in a jar in the fridge. For longer term storage, add a little ascorbic acid as an antioxidant.


Tchanakhi with Romanesco Broccoli and Pickled Vegetables

Чанахи - Tchanakhi (or Chanakhi) is a Georgian dish of slow-cooked lamb and aubergine. That's Georgia the country, not the state in the US.

The ingredients are simple - lamb or mutton of any cut, aubergine, tomatoes, carrots, onion, garlic, parsley and pototoes. Potatoes? Yes! Generally, we'd leave them out of a paleo diet given the high insulin response that is generated, but some people might be okay with leaving them in.

My local Russian Restaurant http://www.rurest.co.uk uses Tkemali in their Tchanakhi - a Georgian plum sauce of both red and green cherry plums, garlic, coriander, dill, cayenne pepper and salt. It should be pungently sour!

To the kitchen ...

Put a casserole dish next to your chopping board - a crock pot or slow cooker would do; just something with a lid. We're going to layer the ingredients in, so read on and take your time - no cooking is required at this point.

Place pieces of lamb of mutton as a base for the dish, cut into manageable pieces - this should be about half of the content of the dish as a whole. Pour over some Tkemali and shower with chopped parsley. If you're going to make your own Tkemali, just stone the plums and add all the ingredients to a blender, adding a little water if necessary to make a pouring sauce.

Chop an onion and layer over. Slice up some carrots into thin slices of a couple of millimetres and layer over the lamb. Grind a little black pepper over at this point.

Cube up aubergine and layer over the top - these vegetables make up the other half of the dish. Shower more parsley over.

Place a good spoonful of fat in the middle of the dish - lard, tallow or bacon grease is all good.

Make up a beef stock and add some minced garlic before pouring over the dish which should just cover it.

Lid on ... oven set to 200C for an hour and then drop the heat to 120C for a couple more hours.

The sauce will reduce as it cooks, but if a thicker sauce is required simply add a little arrowroot stirred in a few minutes before serving ... best, made into a liquid with a splash of vodka!

Serve with something green - salted boiled cabbage or Romanesco broccoli and maybe some pickled vegetables alongside. My local Russian Restaurant serves this with creamy mashed potatoes on the side rather than in the dish.



Boeuf Bourguignon

Classic French cuisine which is entirely paleo - wine, too! Cooking with wine will remove the alcohol while retaining the goodness from the wine - flavour and antioxidants.

Also known as Beef Burgundy this dish, originally a peasant dish, has been elevated to haute cuisine; a simple gentle simmering of beef in wine. Most will follow the original Escoffier recipe, although feel free to make subtle changes to suit your palate or the ingredients you have in.

Don your striped shirt and beret! We're going French ...

Place a casserole pot within reach - we'll be frying off ingredients and putting them together in the pot. The pot should have a lid.

In a dry frying pan, fry off some fatty bacon cut into small strips and some cubed beef. Deviating from Escoffier, you could add some offals like kidney or liver for a full primal experience! Once browned, put into the casserole pot.

Allow the pan to cool a little so as not to burn the next stage. Put a good knob of butter in the pan and gently saute some halved mushrooms - I like chestnut mushrooms. Put into the casserole pot.

Allow the pan to cool again, put in another smaller knob of butter and gently saute some onions and celery. Small onions are best here, but a large white onion can be chopped into large pieces. Put into the casserole pot.

Chop a couple of carrots and add to the casserole dish. Lift the ingredients through the pot to mix them up.

De-glaze the frying pan with a generous amount of red wine - Burgundy, naturally. Add some beef stock once a slight reduction has been seen and some minced garlic. Pour over the casserole pot.

Finally, chop some parsley and thyme, and put into the pot with a bay leaf. Top up with water if necessary.

220C will get this dish ready to eat in about an hour and a half. Drop the temperature to 150C-180C for a slower cooking time.

The dish will reduce as it cooks, but if a thicker sauce is required simply add a little arrowroot stirred in a few minutes before serving.

Serve with simple greens in a wide bowl.


Asparagus and Aioli

Asparagus is a paleo super-food, low in calories and very low in sodium, a good source of vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium and zinc, and a very good source of dietary fibre, protein, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, thiamine, riboflavin, rutin, niacin, folic acid, iron, phosphorus, potassium, copper, manganese and selenium ... high in antioxidants, too.

Sufficed to say, it's awesome!

What better than to accompany with an egg-rich sauce with a garlic kick? As a snack, a starter or a sharing plate for paleo partners, aioli makes that accompaniment.

Let's make some sauce ...

Collect a number of egg yolks into a bowl. Eggs from naturally raised chickens have a fantastic yellow colour and a great flavour.

Whisk the eggs, pouring up a slow stream of extra virgin olive oil until a fine emulsion is formed. As well as producing a fine sauce, this is great exercise - feel free to use a food processor.

Whisk in some crushed and minced garlic cloves. Use as many as you like, but do not overpower the sauce.

Check for flavour, adding lemon juice, maybe a little salt and some finely ground black pepper. You can optionally include some English mustard powder to boost the kick and add some further yellow colour if need be - it's optional. Feel free to pop in some finely chopped herbs - parsley and basil spring to mind.

Prepare and steam your asparagus, maybe griddle them if you want a smoky flavour.

Assemble the asparagus on one plate, the aioli in a small bowl or ramekin and get stuck in!


Kepti Baklazanai with Beef Bolognese

Жареные баклажаны с говядиной Болоньез - Kepti Baklazanai with Beef Bolognese is a Russian dish of fried aubergine covered with a beef bolognese sauce, topped with cheese and herbs; not dissimliar to the Italian Parmigiana di Melanzane with which you might be more familiar.

Time to get nuclear with some Russian fusion ...

Slice some aubergine, lengthways or across the plant depending upon the shape you want. Feel free to salt the slices to remove the bitterness, patting off the liquid that is drawn out - many modern varieties do not require this.

Put the slices into a hot grill pan or frying pan. Aubergine will soak up oil, so I prefer to dry fry initially and then pat with a little extra virgin olive oil and continue the frying to add colour. Once fried, set aside.

Make up a beef sauce with minced beef fried and the excess fat removed. Soften a chopped onion, some minced garlic, add in a can of plum tomatoes and a good handful of parsley. Salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for a couple of hours to cook through.

In a hot over (say, 180C), cook the aubergines through for 5 minutes and place onto a plate - two to three per person is sufficient.

Spoon the beef sauce over and sprinkle some grated cheese over the top - cheddar is fine, or feta.

Finally, garnish with more parsley.

For an Italian style, use oregano in the beef sauce and parmesan cheese for the topping. Garnish with basil.


Kaddo Bourani

An Afghan dish of spiced minced meat over pumpkin.

I use this as an opportunity to make a cheap and tasty meal, an alternative to curry and a means of enjoying some squash rather than pumpkin.

Let's go Afghan ...

Make up a meat curry using minced lamb or beef, further breaking down in a frying pan with a flat wooden paddle until a really fine texture akin to ground beef is present. There is no need to add any fat since the meat itself will yield both fat and water when cooked - we're looking for a dry dish.

Just before the last of the water fries off, add some chopped onions, garlic and spices, and get the lid on so that the onions will soften in the steam. Add a touch more water if necessary.

The spice blend should be tuned to your taste. Tthe dish should be warming and flavoursome but  Kaddo should not be an especially hot dish. Give it a nice kick - half a teaspoon of each: coriander, cumin and turmeric, maybe a touch of cinnamon, minced chilli (to taste), salt (Indian Black Salt, if you can find it) and maybe a touch of honey. You're getting the idea now :)

Once the onions have softened, add a little tomato - maybe one or two plum tomatoes, de-seeded. Cook out for an hour, or so.

Meanwhile, prepare a squash or pumpkin, place on a roasting dish and into an oven on a moderate heat to soften and roast.

Plate up - squash or pumpkin arranged around the plate, a good dollop of natural yoghurt and then a generous spoonful of Kaddo on top. Garnish with fresh coriander leaves.


Venison in Cabbage Leaves

Really, any game meat will do just fine - deer, rabbit, partridge; even exotic meat like bock, bison, buffalo, kangaroo, ostrich or crocodile.

It's a slow-cooking dish ...

Brown off the meat in a frying pan with a little fat and then set aside.

Make up a pan of bouillon and water. Soften a number of cabbage leaves in the stock - Savoy cabbage is great for this dish. Softened for a minute, or so is fine - set aside to cool.

In the frying pan, fry off some chopped onions, garlic, bacon and cubes of carrot or swede. De-glazing with a little water to get all the flavour from the pan, pour into an oven-proof dish or your slow cooked.

Wrap the meat in the cabbage leaves and press into the oven-proof dish. The parcels should be comfortable, not over-tight nor swimming around. Pour over the stock until the parcels are just covered.

Put the lid on and cook on a low/moderate heat for a few hours - higher temperature if you need the dish cooked a little quicker, so 150C tops, or lower if you're happy to leave the dish most of the day - 100C to 120C.

Serve out into large open bowls with vegetables to accompany - mashed celeriac and green beans, for me!

Scandinavian Inspired Tinned Fish Breakfast

Scandinavian inspired?

I set out to make an entirely different breakfast, but quickly realising I did not have ... well, any of the key ingredients in so, falling back on the memory of flavours and tastes from Scandinavian breakfasts enjoyed on visits to Stockholm I set about on a fresh course.

But what about the breakfast that you were going to make, I hear you ask. I was going to use something strong and green as the base - samphire or sea spinach, even spinach. A warm salad of bacon, lettuce, tomatoes and cucumber was going to sit on top, drizzled in mayonnaise and fillets of fish, rich in omega 3 would be laid on top.

So, to the ingredients that I actually used ...

Put a few slices of streaky bacon under the grill - streaky bacon works best due to the fat content; it is belly pork sliced thin.

Meanwhile, make the mayonnaise - two egg yolks, whisk until lighter and fluffy and then gradually add avocado oil (or extra virgin olive oil) in constantly whisking. You will get a feel for how much oil you need, but the exact ratio does not really matter. I added a splash of pink grapefruit juice at the end to soften it down to a pouring consistency and added in some chopped dill stalks.

Place a good handful of dill tops on the centre of a plate.

Cut up some lettuce, tomato, green and red bell peppers, cucumber, pickled gherkin and pickled beetroot.

When the bacon is done, retrieve it from the grille, cut in to slices and place in a frying pan with the peppers, rapidly adding the tomato, gherkin, beetroot and lettuce. Toss it a few times and spoon it onto the dill. This should be just warm, not cooked.

Drizzle lots of the mayonnaise over.

Place the fillets of fish on the top - any fish will do: mackerel, sardine, herring, for example. From cans, this is best in brine rather than sunflower oil so that the omega 3 to 6 ratio is not completely unbalanced. Alternatively, a poached egg makes a great crowning piece.

This breakfast is like a cable car straight to the summit of Mount Happy! Enjoy the view :)


Swedish Meatballs

Something quick and easy during a busy week.

Swedes love their meatballs, or köttbullar, which has to be served with gravy, or gräddsås - a thick chicken stock and cream sauce.

Accompanied by mashed potatoes and a good blob of lingonberry jam, you could leave it at that.

Let's make it paleo ...

Make up some meatballs out of pork mince. Form, gently fry in some fat and then transfer on a tray to an over set to 200C for 20 minutes or so.

Prepare your vegetables - anything will do. I often use swede, carrot, cauliflower and courgette. Salad ingredients also, cucumber, tomato, some pickles - gherkins, beetroots, that kind of thing. Pretty much, use whatever you want to, whatever you have to hand or what needs using up. Salad potatoes are fine here if you're happy with the carbohydrate.

Make up the gravy by heating up a chicken stock and adding heavy cream. If you are completely off dairy, then just leave out the cream but do really thicken the gravy by reducing and add in some arrowroot at the end.

Plate up by putting all the cooked vegetables, salad ingredients and pickles into a wide bowl. Add the meatballs on top and then squeeze a ramekin into the middle. Pour the gravy into the ramekin. The addition of some blueberries alongside would work very well indeed.

Garnish with an egg, some herbs and maybe a couple of stalks of tenderstem broccoli or asparagus.

Picking up pieces on a fork, dunk into the gravy and enjoy.

For a more traditional fair, simple plate up with the meatballs in one area, a good helping of mashed roots - celeriac, swede or potato; and a handful of berries. Pour the gravy over the meatballs.


Butternut Squash Kutta

Butternut Squash Kutta is a Middle-Eastern dish centred around butternut squash and flavoured with all manner of accompaniments including spices, chillis, olives, capers and a sprinkling of nuts - almonds or pistachio.

Often served over cous cous or rice (see the main picture taken prior to me moving over to paleo), we can easily make this a paleo dish. Taking that inspiration and working in the requisite amount of meat or fish and serving over something like strong green vegetables, this delicious dish can be made into a paleo tour de force!

So, let's build the dish ...

Assemble the ingredients - butternut squash, other vegetables such as stringless green beans, peas, green peppers, olives, capers, harissa paste, onions, garlic, smoked salt, cumin and coriander.

You can use meat, but my suggestion would be for meatballs - beef or lamb would both be fine. Fish is another great inclusion and a strong white fish like cod or haddock is perfect; smoked even better. If you're going to have meatballs, prepare them, fry them off in fat and set them aside.

Begin with a glug of avocado oil in a pan on a medium heat and sweat off half a large onion.

Add in a tin of plum tomatoes and break them down to a rough paste, adding in a good squirt of tomato puree. Add water, maybe half a pint.

Cut up butternut squash into good chunks and add to the pan along with good sized pieces of green pepper.

Add some garlic, a couple of chillis, a helping of capers, a teaspoon of harissa paste and a sprinkle or so of cumin. Chop coriander stalks and add them at this stage. Salt to taste using pure sea salt.

Cook the dish at a good simmer for half an hour, adding the already cooked meatballs, or uncooked fish in about a quarter of an hour from the end.

Meanwhile boil or steam some strong green vegetables like tenderstem broccoli, kale or spring greens.

Just prior to serving, stir in some olives - green or black, any will be fine.

Plate up serving the Kutta over the vegetables. Garnish with coriander leaves and some nuts - almond, pistachio or pine nuts are all good. Slices of avocado would be an excellent accompaniment as well.

Kutta is about trying things out - there is a core recipe based around butternut squash, but add in what you think will work well. I hope I have mentioned a few ingredients which will inspire you. The dish should be fresh, warm, aromatic and deep.


Caveman Crumble!

Quick and easy!

Fruit ... you need some fruit or berries, so slip on your huaraches and get out there! Blackberries, bilberries, gooseberries, any kind of berries!

Let's build the dish ...

If necessary cook down the berries or fruit a little and spoon into an overproof dish. Add honey, if necessary for sweetness - yes, honey is perfectly paleo. How natural can you get? Ensure that it is pure, unadulterated and local. Okay honey has a glycemic load, just like sugar, but this is a treat!

We can cope with it ...

http://www.marksdailyapple.com/is-honey-a-safer-sweetener/ ... I tend to think so.

In another bowl, rub butter and almond flour together and then spoon the mixture over the berries or fruit.

Cook for 20 minutes, or so on 200C and then spoon out, enjoying with some coconut milk ice cream.

Caveman Crumble is about gathering - get out there! Get into the fields and gather some berries! Get home, wash them and turn them into a delicious dessert.

Crab Linguine with Chicken Pieces

Crab Linguine was one of my wife's most favourite pre-paleo foods. Simply, it is crab meat tossed into fresh boiled linguine with chilli and coriander - gorgeous, yes! But, not paleo.

I am not much in favour of imitating pre-paleo dishes; supplementing one non-paleo ingredient for another is not within the nature of going paleo. That said, juliennes of courgette are very tasty in their own right.

So, let's build the dish ...

Use some chicken pieces that have been pre-cooked and simply dust them in some kind of spices - I used Cayenne Pepper and Celery Salt, rather than just plain old salt and pepper. Drizzle a little oil over and bake in an oven at 200C for around 20 minutes. I used avocado oil.

Meanwhile, julienne some courgettes and segment some cauliflower. Put the cauliflower on to boil.

In a frying pan, heat up some oil - I used avocado oil. Toss some crab meat in the oil and keep it moving until it colours up a little. Add the courgette at this point and keep tossing the food in the pad, much akin to making a stir-fry.

Add in a good handful or coriander and whichever chillis you like - I used a Scotch Bonnet.

Serve up with the Crab Linguine towards the side of a wide bowl, place the chicken pieces and then the cauliflower.

Personally, I think a dramatic improvement of this dish would be a few pieces of avocado and some pine nuts. Chicken and crab works very well indeed; a greater variety of vegetables, such as some broccoli in the mix would have been nice as well.

As a dish it worked well ... hungry people may want more, and more variety. Of course, leave off the chicken and vegetables, serving the Crab Linguine as a starter.