Zoe’s Choc-Orange Birthday Balls (a.k.a. ‘Jaffa Balls’)

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TSL Jaffa Bliss Balls

(Image by TSL)

It’s my buddy, Zoe’s birthday today. It also happens to be my Mum’s birthday, too. But, because I’m lucky enough to have Mum here with me in Sydney to celebrate, I won’t be seeing Zoe on her big day.

So, these balls are dedicated to you, my crazy friend. I hope you have an AWESOME day.

Happy Birthday!

For the uninitiated (those of you not from Australia or New Zealand!), ‘Jaffa’ is a colloquial term that refers to small ball of goodness which consists of a soft chocolate centre with a hard covering of orange flavoured, red coloured confectionery. The name comes from the Jaffa orange. And, through association with this wee ball of goodness, Jaffa has now come to describe a chocolate-orange flavour.

Of course, jaffas are definitely off my menu.  I can’t imagine there’s much about them that are AIP-friendly with all the processed gunk (technical term!) that makes them taste so very good. But these wee ‘jaffa balls’ are a fantastic alternative.

TSL Jaffas

The taste of childhood
We used to roll jaffas down the aisles at the movies
(Image from here)

And, in another bit of somewhat unrelated trivia, I originate from Auckland. In New Zealand, Aucklanders are often referred to as JAFAs. Not because we are full of chocolate and taste weirdly like an orange. Rather, because it is both a slang term and an acronym for Just Another F*&^ing Aucklander

Now you know!

So, back to Zoe’s birthday balls.

These balls are a little more-ish. Actually, they are more than a little more-ish. And, while they are free of refined sugar and processed gunk, they do have a hefty amount of dried fruit added – so, best to eat in moderation. If you can hold yourself back, that is.

Zoe's Choc-Orange Birthday Balls

  • Servings: 20
  • Time: 45 minutes + activating and chilling
  • Difficulty: ridiculously easy
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T^SL Choc Orange Bliss Balls

Ingredients:

1 x cup almonds, preferably activated (sprouted)
1/2 x cup cashews, preferably activated (sprouted)
4 Medjool dates, pitted and roughly chopped
1 x cup sultanas
Zest and juice of one organic orange
1/4 x cup raw cacao powder
1/4 cup desiccated coconut + more for rolling

Method

1. Pop your almonds and cashews into your food processor. Blitz on high until they resemble fine bread crumbs.

2. Add your dates, sultanas, zest and juice of the orange, cacao powder and desiccated coconut to the nut mixture. Pulse until thoroughly mixed into a thick dough. Give it a pinch test between your fingers. If it’s a little dry, add a drop or two of water.

3. Pour about a 1/4 cup of desiccated coconut into a bowl. Using a tablespoon as your measure, roll balls of the mixture between your hands, and then roll in coconut to cover.

4. Pop into the fridge for at least an hour to chill before devouring.

E N J O Y !

I’m at the reintroduction stage of my autoimmune protocol adventure. That means I can start reintroducing foods that have previously been excluded. This is managed in a very systematic way – one food at a time, starting with things that are least likely to cause a problem (or that I miss the most!). I’m keeping a food journal and recording any unusual symptoms or changes in mood. It’s actually proving to be more work that strict AIP!

Dark Chocolate Dipped Strawberries… Summer’s Coming!

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TSL Choc Dipped Strawberries

(Image by TSL)

There is nothing better than a friend, unless it is a friend with chocolate. (Linda Grayson)

It’s a good great week here at Casa TSL.

I’m having visitors over from New Zealand. As I write this, Sydney has clear blue skies. There’s a fresh feeling in the air.  A sense that summer is on its way. There’s not much that beats Sydney in the summer-time.

…AND, my autoimmune protocol food reintroductions are going well (so far, anyway!). I’m back on low levels of fruit. Berries are particularly good – less sugar than most. Nuts and seeds appear to be fine. I’m adding back a few spices. And, dark chocolate is officially back on the menu!

The greatest tragedies were written by the Greeks and Shakespeare…neither knew chocolate. (Sandra Boynton)

Last Friday night, I had dinner at a girlfriend’s place. Given my super-stringent dietary restrictions, I’m always so touched when a friend goes out of their way to accommodate me. And, of course, I’m off alcohol at the moment.

So, what to bring…?

The strawberry season has well and truly started down here. And, it seems like it will be a good one. You just never know with strawberries! The few I’ve sampled so far have been deep ruby-red in colour, and tasted juicy and sweet. YUM!

So, to celebrate the successful reintroduction of dark chocolate into my life, I thought I’d whip up some chocolate dipped strawberries as a wee ‘hostie gift’.

To be honest, this can hardly be called a recipe – it calls for only 2 ingredients. But, when strawberries are at their best, this is a seriously winning combination. And, who doesn’t love dark chocolate and strawberries?

You can even almost talk yourself into thinking its healthy, too

(in moderation, at least)

Dark Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

  • Servings: depends on your appetite!
  • Time: 30 minutes
  • Difficulty: it's not even a recipe! - its just assembly
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TSL Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

Ingredients:

1 x punnet strawberries (about 300g), carefully washed and dried
150g best quality dark chocolate

Method:

1. Line a tray with baking paper.

2. Break up your chocolate into pieces and pop into a heat-proof bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Ensure the bottom of your bowl is not touching the water. Stir occasionally, until melted. Remove from heat.

3. One at a time, dip each strawberry in chocolate, twirling to coat and place onto baking paper.

4. Refrigerate your chocolate-dipped strawberries until set.

5. Try not to eat them all at once!

E N J O Y !

Top Tip: Any left over melted chocolate can be poured into silicon mini muffin moulds. I pop a little Himalayan sea salt on top and sneak one at a weak moment. Delish!

I’m at the reintroduction stage of my autoimmune protocol adventure. That means I can start reintroducing foods that have previously been excluded. This is managed in a very systematic way – one food at a time, starting with things that are least likely to cause a problem (or that I miss the most!). I’m keeping a food journal and recording any unusual symptoms or changes in mood. It’s actually proving to be more work that strict AIP!

AWESOME Nut-Free Granola Crunch

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TSL Nut Free Granola Crunch

(Image by TSL)

I tell you, I’m really not what you’d call into your basic kink, even though we do live in Hollywood, which is a little bit like living in a box of granola. (McLean Stevenson)

Small brag – not sure if you know this but I’m sort of world-famous for my Christmas granola. And, by world-famous, I mean I have two friends who have come to expect a H U G E jar come the silly season every single year. These two generally start dropping hints about their granola expectations in November. And, while the super-secret base recipe remains the same, each year I change it up. One year it might be cranberry and white chocolate. Another, it may be dark chocolate and macadamia. I haven’t decided on this year’s flavour combo’…

But, here’s the thing. It’s fortunate that I’m really fond of these two because my home-made granola is a bit of a labour of love. Wanna’ know why?

Because I can’t eat it!

It has oats in it. And oats do not agree with me. All part of that autoimmune thing. Bah humbug.

So instead, pre-autoimmune protocol, I had been known to indulge in the very yummy ‘Nutola’ – a grain-free granola recipe. Expensive, but v e r y good. And, it’s become a staple for my health conscious brother-in-law. I’m looking forward to indulging in my Nutola – activated nuts and all – in the not too distant future.

But now that I’ve been on this restricted way of eating for so long, I started thinking about all those peeps who can’t eat granola because of the nut-factor. And, even worse if they have complications with oats and nuts.

And then, because I have one of my favourite people visiting me from New Zealand later in the week, and she doesn’t have any of my dietary challenges, I started thinking about what I was going to feed her for breakfast in my house that has no eggs and no toast and no cereal and very little fruit…

TSL Nut Free Granola Crunch

I’ve been making LM raw milk yoghurt and I reckon the granola crunch will work beautifully with that!
(Image by TSL)

And I came up with the idea of a nut free granola crunch… 

You know me. I like recipes that work and that are not too complicated. And, that taste good! This one is so easy, I reckon’ I could almost do it in my sleep.

It’s also a goodie for those who are starting to reintroduce foods on the autoimmune protocol. Seeds are usually near the top of the list for being least likely to cause an inflammatory response. Especially if they are activated!

AWESOME Nut-Free Granola Crunch

  • Servings: depends on your appetite!
  • Time: 30 minutes + activating
  • Difficulty: ridiculously easy
  • Print

Nut Free Granola Crunch

Ingredients:

200g sunflower seeds preferably activated/soaked
200g sesame seeds
250g Pumpkin seeds (pepitas) preferably activated/soaked
50g organic coconut oil, melted
3 Tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Method

1. Heat your oven to 180°C/3600°F.  Line a rimmed baking tray with baking paper (makes cleaning up a lot easier!)

2. Mix all your ingredients thoroughly together in a large bowl. Spread evenly over the baking paper lined tray.

3. Bake until golden – about 25-30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes and keeping an eye on the mixture so it doesn’t burn (nuts and seeds can burn easily and will turn bitter)

4. Remove from oven and allow to cool before storing in an airtight container. I keep mine in the fridge.

Serving suggestions: – serve over fresh or stewed fruit, yoghurt or ice cream, mix into homemade ice cream for ‘crunch factor’, would also make a great topping for cheesecake and can be eaten as trail mix (better still with some dark chocolate added!)

E N J O Y !

I’m at the reintroduction stage of my autoimmune protocol adventure. That means I can start reintroducing foods that have previously been excluded. This is managed in a very systematic way – one food at a time, starting with things that are least likely to cause a problem (or that I miss the most!). I’m keeping a food journal and recording any unusual symptoms or changes in mood. It’s actually proving to be more work that strict AIP!

The FABULOUS Fergus Henderson’s Green Beans, Shallots, Garlic and Anchovies

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Green Beans with Shallots, Roasted Garlic and Anchovies | TSL

(Image by TSL)

One afternoon my flat was broken into. The strange thing is, before I went out I had put a hare in the oven to braise, which filled the flat with delicious gamey smells. I cannot help but think that it must have been very distracting to the burglar, the musk of a braising hare. (Fergus Henderson, ‘The Complete Nose to Tail‘)

You know that ubiquitous question that gets asked? The one along the lines of, “If you could invite 3 (or five or even seven) people to dinner – anybody in the world – who would you invite?”. THAT question.

Well, Fergus Henderson would definitely be on my list.

Why?

Well. Here’s a picture of the man himself. Not just anybody could wear a suit like that and get away with it….

Fergus Henderson

(Image from St John Group)

If that is not reason enough for you, his British eccentricity appeals to me. He has a wonderful quirkiness about him. Of course, his approach to food (and eating) is another. His cookbook ‘Complete Nose to Tail: A Kind of British Cooking‘ is fast becoming a staple in my kitchen despite the fact that I can’t eat most of the lovely sweets and breads on offer (I finally purchased it 18 months after it was first published). And, when LM and I were last in London back in 2012, his restaurant St John easily topped the list as our most memorable dining experience – for all the right reasons. It was so good, we even went back for a second helping. And, if that’s not enough for you – Anthony Bourdain rates him, too. BIG time.

Oh – and I think he may just have a lazy eye. But, I could be imagining things. If he does, we have that in common – I have an eye that likes to do its own thing on occasion.

The buzzing of the bees, a glass of rose, the warmth of the sun, radishes and butter. (Fergus Henderson, ‘The Complete Nose to Tail‘)

This recipe excites me in so many ways! First up – it has green beans as the core ingredient. I haven’t had beans in a long time because they fall into a ‘grey area’ for the autoimmune protocol. And then, as is typical for Fergus, the dish is full of lovely pungent flavours – gooey and aromatic roasted garlic, sweetly oven-caramelised shallots, the most English of herbs – parsley, salty capers, and then a massive hit of umami-flavoured anchovies. I adore anchovies, but I do acknowledge they are not to everyone’s taste.

And, sadly, if you are not in the pro-anchovy camp, this recipe may not be one for you to try…

But – on the other hand – if anchovies are your thing, then this recipe may just become your favourite side dish in the whole world.

It’s pretty damn fine, I think.

Fergus Henderson's Green Beans, Shallots, Garlic and Anchovies

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 70 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy-peasey
  • Print

Fergus Henderson's Beans

Adapted from ‘The Complete Nose to Tail’ to suit those in the reintroduction phase of the Autoimmune Protocol

Ingredients:

2 x whole bulbs of garlic
16 x shallots, peeled
Coconut oil (or duck fat or lard) melted
Extra virgin olive oil
Himalayan sea salt
1 x small tin of anchovies in EVOO, chopped reasonably fine
1 x handful capers
1/2 x bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 x teaspoon red wine vinegar
900g French beans, topped and tailed

Method

1. Heat your oven to 200°C/400°F.  Cut about 1 cm from the top of each of your garlic bulbs to expose the individual garlic cloves. Discard the tops. Place the garlic bulbs in an ovenproof dish. Drizzle with a little melted coconut oil (or fat of choice). Cover the dish with foil and bake for 40 – 50 minutes or until the garlic is soft when tested with a skewer.

2. While your garlic is roasting, toss your shallots in a little more melted coconut oil. Pop them into the oven to roast alongside the garlic. You will need to keep an eye on the shallots, tossing them regularly – every 10 minutes or so – until soft. Keep warm.

3. When the garlic is cool enough to handle, squeeze the flesh out of the cloves. Try to resist gobbling it all up.

4. In a small bowl, mix the anchovies, garlic flesh, capers and parsley. Add a splash of extra virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar. Check for seasoning.

5. Bring a pot of well salted water to the boil. Pop in your beans and cook for four minutes. Check for done-ness. Drain and then mix them in a warm bowl with your roasted shallots and anchovy dressing.

6. Serve immediately.

E N J O Y !

Fergus recommends serving this dish with lamb chops. We served ours with some lovely scotch filet from the gorgeous Scotty at Moobi Valley Meats. It was divine!

I’m at the reintroduction stage of my autoimmune protocol adventure. That means I can start reintroducing foods that have previously been excluded. This is managed in a very systematic way – one food at a time, starting with things that are least likely to cause a problem (or that I miss the most!). I’m keeping a food journal and recording any unusual symptoms or changes in mood. It’s actually proving to be more work that strict AIP!

Arianna Huffington in Conversation with Annabel Crabb

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Arianna Huffington Quote

(Image by TSL)

On Wednesday night, LM and I went to see Annabel Crabb interview Arianna Huffington as part of the 2014 season of Ideas at the House (Only it was not held at the Sydney Opera House; rather it was at Carriageworks, which is not even close!).

Of course, Arianna Huffington was the star attraction. But I’m quite partial to a dose of the endearingly quirky and intelligent political journalist, Annabel, too.

And, I do think the calibre of the interviewer matters a lot in talks such as this.

Ideas at the House

Ideas at the House that are not really at the House. 
(image by TSL)

Don’t really know who Arianna Huffington is…?

Her abbreviated bio from the Ideas at the House site reads: “Born in Greece, Huffington moved to the US by way of Cambridge University in England, becoming a renowned broadcaster and nationally syndicated columnist. In May of 2005, she launched the Huffington Post, which quickly became one of the most widely read and -cited online media brands. Huffington was soon named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People, and is currently the chair, president, and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post Media Group. Her latest book, Thrive, which debuted at #1 on the New York Times Bestseller list reflects on her stunning success as well as her passionate and personal mission to redefine its meaning.”

She’s a pretty impressive woman. Obviously very bright, articulate and savvy, not to mention connected. But, she also has a great sense of humour and the ability to laugh at herself. I wonder if she’d like to be my mentor?

Annabel Crabb interviews Arianna Huffington

Annabel & Arianna
Taken on my trusty iPhone – please excuse the picture quality
(Image by TSL)

Bill Clinton said the biggest mistakes he made while President were when he was tired. He just forgot to acknowledge which mistakes these were. (Arianna Huffington)

I actually bought Arianna’s latest book, ‘Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder‘ (bit of a mouthful) when it was first published.

And, given the health caper I’ve been on over the last wee while, you may be unsurprised to learn that I kind of agree with many of the sentiments expressed in the book…

Arianna Huffington's 12 Steps

12 steps sourced from here
(Image by TSL)

The two areas that have really resonated for me are around sleep and worry. Let’s call them numbers 1, 4 and 9 from the 12 tips listed above. I never knew just how much I worried. Or, just how important getting enough sleep was. Until I didn’t worry as much. And, until I started regularly getting more sleep.

Which is all good. But, it’s not quite that easy to just start sleeping more and worrying less. It actually takes some work. Hard work. And, I suspect people are different in terms of how they can best achieve results.

And, then there’s a little cynical version of TSL sitting on my shoulder. The ‘negative version of me’. The one who makes excuses. And, she’s saying “64-year old Arianna Huffington (who looks 20 years younger), you made US$315 million from the sale of the Huffington Post to AOL in 2011. And NOW you practise ‘mindfulness’.” 

Where does a normal person find the time…?

The truth is, something’s got to give. Arianna is quite right when she says we are becoming slaves to technology. Well, I think she is.

And, she’s also right when she says we are mis-guided in our belief that multitasking is the answer to productivity. Juggling too many balls just means you achieve less. This is certainly true for me. It is impossible to be all things to everyone in your life. Work out your priorities. Then, focus on those. Humph!

There were many terrible things in my life and most of them never happened. (Michel de Montaigne)

Arianna suggests we shouldn’t hold grudges. We should aim to be permeable – let the grudge go into us and then out again. Through us, if you will. We should look to little children as role models for this. They get upset, throw a tantrum and move on quickly. I remember my little sister being a master of this as a child. Me, not so much. Perhaps there’s a lesson in there…

Arianna Huffington

Arianna
(Image by TSL)

It was worth it – seeing Annabel interview Arianna. But, I do feel as though I have a long, long way to go until I’m really ‘thriving’

Ideas at the House is Sydney Opera House’s annual Talks & Ideas program. It brings big ideas, extraordinary people and the best of contemporary culture to the stage, and to online audiences. Next up, Yotam Ottolenghi is having a conversation with Joanna Savill on 29 October…

Rillettes – Wee Pots of Porky Goodness!

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TSL Pork Rillettes

(Image by TSL)

You can never put too much pork in your mouth as far as I’m concerned. (Lewis Black)

Do you ever wonder which genes you got from your Mum, and which you got from your Dad? Physically, it’s a toss-up whether I am more a product of one over the other. I resemble both my parents. But, my taste buds – they are ALL my Dad’s. He’s coming to visit in a couple of weeks (with my Mum). And, as so often happens before he crosses the ditch, I start thinking of foods that he might particularly enjoy…

This week, I was inspired by my recent ox tongue experiment. It was so easy, not to mention budget-friendly, that I thought I should continue to expand my culinary horizons. And, while my Dad was impressed with my ox tongue exploits, this week’s recipe may hold slightly wider appeal – none of that ‘ick-factor’ sometimes associated with cooking tongue!

In my recent search for suitable tongue recipes, I came across Stephanie Alexander’s recipe for pork rillettes. And, the seed was firmly planted. I love rillettes. And, frankly, the recipe looked so easy.

TSL Pork Rillettes

If you can’t have your rillettes melting on freshly toasted sourdough (sigh!), celery sticks are a pretty tasty alternative!
(Image by TSL)

Actually, too easy. So, I started researching…

What are rillettes?

Rillettes are potted jars of meat confit, slow cooked in fat, and then shredded and packed in more fat. Rustic, unctuous and SERIOUSLY scrummy. Best of all, because of the richness of rillettes, a little goes a long way. It’s a very budget-friendly option.

The process was originally used before refrigeration to keep meat from spoiling. The fat, while providing an incredible flavour, sealed the meat in the pot keeping it fresh and delicious for weeks longer than would have been possible otherwise.

Often made with pork, duck or goose, or even salmon, the savoury quality of rillettes comes from using traditionally fatty meats and a generous quantity of salt. Nigel Slater says it keeps for weeks if covered with a layer of fat. So, it must be true!

TSL Pork Rillettes

Rillettes are great with homemade kraut, too…
(Image by TSL)

If I had to narrow my choice of meats down to one for the rest of my life, I am quite certain that meat would be pork. (James Beard)

Rillettes have a very high fat content, so it is even more critical that you know the quality of the produce before you buy. You want to know your animal has been pasture-raised and is free of any potential nasties that will settle in the fat. The absolute best pork I have tasted in my life comes from Lauren and Greg at Linga Longa Farm. They take great care of their happy pigs – and, it is SO noticeable in the taste of their pork.

Greg & Lauren from Linga Longa

Greg & Lauren from Linga Longa Farm
(Image by TSL)

I’m not on a commission from Linga Longa (yet!), but I did pick up a kilo-and-a-half of pork belly from their stand at Eveleigh Market last week, especially to give my inaugural rillettes-making experiment a go.

I decided to keep things very simple, for my first attempt. And, because I am limited in the spices I can currently eat (thanks to the Autoimmune Protocol) that means really simple…

I gotta tell you – this ‘rillettes a la TSL’ experiment exceeded all expectations. Seriously good. These babies are about to become a staple here at Casa TSL. And, for those of you on the AIP who need a wee pick me up every now and then, may I suggest a spoonful of homemade rillettes. YUM! – Sure to satisfy!

Pork Rillettes

  • Time: about 4 hours
  • Difficulty: easy-peasey
  • Print

TSL Pork Rillettes

You will need to start this recipe the day before

Ingredients:

1.5 kilos best quality happy pork belly, skinned and boned
Himalayan sea salt
1 x large sprig thyme
1 x bay leaf
2 x cloves garlic
freshly ground black pepper (optional, leave out if on the autoimmune protocol)
1/4 x cup water
1/4 cup verjuice

Method

1. Cut your pork belly into 2 cm pieces and place into a bowl. Massage in 1 1/2 Tablespoons of salt. cover with cling film and pop in the fridge overnight.

2. Heat your oven to 150°C/300°F.

3. Pop your meat into a cast-iron casserole (I used my le Creuset). It is best if it is a snug fit.Add your herbs. Push the garlic cloves down into the centre. Grind on fresh pepper (if using). Pour over water and verjuice. Cover and cook for 3 1/2 – 4 hours, until the pork is swimming in its own fatty juices.

4. Strain through a fine sieve over a bowl (and making sure to reserve the fat). Discard the thyme and bay leaf.

5. Using two forks, shred the meat into a bowl and check for seasoning. Spoon meat into sterilised pots or jars. Ensure you press the meat down well so there are no air pockets. Strain leftover fat over the meat-filled jars.

6. Refrigerate until required.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

E N J O Y !

In extravagant moments I stuff baked potatoes with pork or duck rillettes. Scoop out the cooked potato, mash with the rillettes and pile back into the potato skin and bake until the top crisps. (Nigel Slater)

This recipe features in the Phoenix Helix Recipe Roundtable.

The GREAT Oil Pulling Experiment…

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Oil Pulling Ingredients | TSL

(Image by TSL)

Trips to the dentist – I like to postpone that kind of thing. (Johnny Depp)

This is a good news post!

So, it’s pretty common knowledge that I’ve been on this roller coaster ride to heal my gut (and autoimmune issues) over the past few months year or so. I talked about it in more detail in my post on the autoimmune protocol introduction and then again in the one about all disease beginning in the gut. I think I may have mentioned the problems I have with my teeth and gums, too (in passing – not the sexiest topic!). All this teeth-stuff included some periodontal surgery earlier in the year following a particularly nasty gum infection.

Just as an aside – I don’t recommend periodontal surgery if you can possibly avoid it. Not much fun. Instead – look after your mouth!

As I continue to learn more and more about the importance of gut-health, I am not really that surprised to discover periodontal health goes hand in hand with general health and well-being. At its most simple, it all comes down to an imbalance of bacteria – too many of the bad germy-Jims, and not nearly enough of the good ones. And, when your immune system is compromised, it’s almost impossible for your body to heal itself.

Well, on Tuesday of this week, I had the trifecta of dental appointments. It started early with the dentist, moved onto the hygienist and was rounded out with a meet up with my periodontist. As you might imagine, I wasn’t looking forward to it all.

I have been seeing my dentist a lot this year. Mainly because I had a crown fitted earlier in the year after cracking a back molar. It hasn’t been a smooth process. It seems nothing to do with my teeth and gums ever is!

The last time I visited my dentist was about the same time I started the gut healing protocol. I was going to have at least a month of being almost totally focused on healing myself. So, I thought it might just be time to give this oil pulling thing that I had been reading about a red-hot go. At the very least, I could commit to a daily regimen of oil pulling religiously for a month. Just one wee month. Just to see if he noticed a difference on my next visit. Sort of a ‘self-experiment’, if you will.

Don’t know what oil pulling is?

Oil pulling is an ancient Ayurvedic remedy that uses natural oils to clean and detoxify teeth and gums. It is reputed to have the added effect of whitening teeth naturally and there is some evidence that it is beneficial in improving gums and removing harmful bacteria – bonus!

The concept is really simple. You swish a couple teaspoons of a vegetable based oil in your mouth for about 20 minutes. You then spit it out and rinse thoroughly. Traditionally, back in India, oil pullers used virgin sesame oil. I use raw coconut oil because it has antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and enzymatic properties. Plus, the smell of sesame oil first thing in the morning just doesn’t do it for me.

Coconut Oil for Oil Pulling | TSL

Coconut Oil at the ready…
(Image by TSL)

Oil pulling is best done in the morning, before eating or drinking anything. I do it while I’m in the shower.

Dentist, n.: A Prestidigitator who, putting metal in one’s mouth, pulls coins out of one’s pockets. (Ambrose Bierce)

But, exactly HOW do you oil pull?

1. Put 1-2 teaspoons of oil into your mouth. I use a couple of teaspoons of organic coconut oil. I scoop it out as a solid, chew on it a few times and let it melt in my mouth before starting to swish. If you prefer the taste, you could add a drop or two of peppermint oil.

2. Swish around your mouth for 20 minutes. Suck and pull the liquid oil through your teeth and around your gums. Be careful not to swallow! Apparently the timing is key. You want to do it long enough to break through plaque and bacteria but not long enough that the body starts re-absorbing the toxins and bacteria. You will find that the oil gets thicker and milky as it mixes with your saliva. It will increase in volume.

3. Spit out the oil into the rubbish bin. Don’t spit into the sink! It will block your sink as it hardens. And, definitely don’t swallow the oil because it will be full of all the bacteria and toxins you’re working so hard to get rid of in your mouth.

4. Rinse well with warm water.

Oil Pulling | TSL

In one month, I’ve ‘pulled’ almost this entire jar of coconut oil…
(Image by TSL)

To be honest, it does take a little getting used to. It’s winter here, so the coconut oil takes some time to melt in my mouth before I start swishing. But, after the first 2 or 3 days, I found I got into a bit of a routine. It’s not difficult. And, I find swishing in the shower almost meditative. And, you do have to focus on the swishing – so, it keeps your mind other things (which – in my case – is a good thing!).

And now or the good news!

My dentist estimated between a 20 – 40% reduction in plaque build up since my last visit a month ago. That’s just from oil pulling. My hygienist even danced a wee jig at the improved state of my gum health since she last saw me 6 months ago. And, while that is certainly not all due to the oil pulling – pretty sure my gut healing is having some effect – the reduction in plaque build up is.

I think I’m going to keep on oil pulling. It’s now part of my daily routine.

SUPER SIMPLE Ox Tongue with Green Caper Sauce

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Ox Tongue with Green Caper Sauce | TSL

(Image by TSL)

I’ve long believed that good food, good eating, is all about risk. Whether we’re talking about unpasteurized Stilton, raw oysters or working for organized crime ‘associates’, food, for me, has always been an adventure. (Anthony Bourdain)

There’s a back story to this post.

Back in June of this year, my lovely blogging buddy, Petra from over at Petra8Paleo posted about how she mistakenly bought some bison tongue (thinking it was heart) and totally wimped out about cooking it because, well – if you’ve ever cooked a tongue, there’s just no escaping the reality of what it is. It looks like a ginormous tongue. It was too much for Petra.

It reminded me of how my Mum used to prepare pressed tongue for us, when we were little. Actually – it was probably mainly for my Dad. He is a big fan of things offal and secondary cuts.

I determined that it was about time I gave preparing tongue it a go myself…

I can tie a cherry stem into a knot with my tongue. Now, if only I could do the same with my shoelaces, I wouldn’t have to banana pudding my way to success.
 (Jarod Kintz, This Book Has No Title)

Now, tongue is still technically a muscle meat, so it has a nutritional profile that is similar to that of other beef muscle meats. It’s a good source of iron, zinc, choline, vitamin B12, other B vitamins, and trace minerals. It’s also a pretty fatty cut of meat, which means it is just about one of the most tender cuts of beef you can find. SUPER tender, in fact.

It’s actually a really easy cut of meat to cook – just a wee bit time-consuming (like many good things!), and it lends itself to many accompanying flavours. And, it’s a very budget friendly cut, too.

Ox Tongue with Green Caper Sauce | TSL

Ox Tongue with Green Caper Sauce
(Image by TSL)

The bigger challenge, it turns out, is sourcing happy tongue here in Sydney. That is – tongue from a pasture raised animal with no added hormones or antibiotics, not to mention grains.

Here in Australia, it is relatively easy to source happy meat. There is a growing awareness that we eat whatever what we eat, eats… But, unfortunately offal is more of a challenge. While premium cuts of meat are separated into grass-fed versus ‘standard raised and supplemented’ as a matter of course at the abattoir, the same cannot be said for offal. In the case of beef and pork, it is all mixed together (pretty much all lamb is pasture raised). There is not yet enough of a market to justify keeping the grass-fed offal separate for retail sales. Here’s hoping that will start to change. Soon!

I sourced my lovely ox tongue from the good peeps at Feather and Bone. If you don’t happen to have a local farmer as your best friend, here in Syders, they are the next best thing because they buy whole animals and break them down, rather than using an abattoir. But, don’t think that means there are spare tongues waiting to be snapped up – they are hard to come by!

Any-who, once I had my ox tongue in my hot little hands, I needed to work out the best way to cook it, not to mention serve it. It seems to be universally accepted that the only way to cook tongue is long and slow – you want a meltingly tender result, not one that’s tough-as-old-boots!

Two Very Useful Cookbooks

Two Very Useful Cookbooks
‘The Cook’s Companion’ by Stephanie Alexander
‘The Complete Nose to Tail’ by Fergus Henderson and Justin Piers Gellatly
(Image by TSL)

I have been itching to try out a recipe or two from Fergus Henderson’s GORGEOUS ‘The Complete Nose to Tail’ for quite some time. If you haven’t got a copy in your house, it’s worth acquiring it just for the delightful way he writes. He makes me want to experiment with food. Here’s an example:

Do not be afraid of cooking, as your ingredients will know, and misbehave. Enjoy your cooking and the food will behave; moreover it will pass your pleasure on to those who eat it. (Fergus Henderson, The Complete Nose to Tail)

The thing is, it was my first time preparing tongue. And after all the effort I went to in sourcing it, I didn’t want to screw it up. So, I also checked in with the Australian oracle of cookery, she who knows EVERYTHING, Stephanie Alexander.

Both Stephanie and Fergus agree that a pickled or brined tongue is preferable. While it is possible to cook ‘fresh’ tongue, it will apparently be a less appealing grey-brown colour. Often your butcher will sell tongue already pickled. Mine wasn’t. Fergus suggests brining your tongue for 7 days. Stephanie says 2 is enough (although up to a week is fine). I went with Stephanie’s two days! I was ready to cook my tongue!

I prepared a simple green caper sauce for my first tongue meal. And, I received the LM seal of approval. He later confessed to being a little nervous about eating tongue, until he worked out that it really is just a muscle. And of course, it tastes fabulous.

Next time around I’m going to press my tongue… Watch this space!

SUPER SIMPLE Ox Tongue with Green Caper Sauce

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: about 4 hours
  • Difficulty: easy-peasey
  • Print

If brining your tongue, you will need to start this recipe at least two days ahead.

Ox Tongue with Green Caper Sauce | TSL

Ingredients:

For the brine*:

2 x litres water
200g coconut sugar
300g sea salt
1 x bay leaf
1 x sprig thyme
1/2 teaspoon juniper berries
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon all spice
1/4 teaspoon mace
3 x cloves
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds

For the tongue:

1 x ox tongue
2 x carrots
2 x leeks
2 x onions
1 x bay leaf
1 x sprig of thyme
Parsley stalks
2 x Tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar

For the Green Caper Sauce:

1/2 x cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 x bunches fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped (about 2 cups)
1/4 cup capers, chopped
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
Himalayan sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper (optional, leave out if on the autoimmune protocol)

Method

For brining:

1. Pop all your spices into a piece of muslin or a spice bag and tie firmly. Heat your water, coconut sugar and salt together in a large non-reactive pot (I used stainless steel) until your sugar and salt have dissolved. Bring to the boil. Drop in your spice bag and turn off the heat.

2. Cool the brine completely. Transfer to a large glass bowl. Immerse your ox tongue completely in the brine, using weights to ensure it is fully submerged. Pop into your fridge for 2 – 7 days. When ready to cook, rinse and dry the tongue. Discard the brine.

For cooking:

3. Place your tongue in a large pot with the carrots, leeks, onions and herbs. Just cover all the ingredients with filtered water and bring to the gentlest of boils. Immediately lower the temperature to a low simmer and add the apple cider vinegar. Leave for 3 – 3 1/2 hours.

4. While the tongue is slowly cooking, make your green caper sauce by mixing together your EVOO, parsley, capers, red wine vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper in a bowl. Taste for seasoning. Put aside to allow the flavours to marry until your tongue is ready.

5. You will know when your tongue is cooked because the skin will peal away easily. You should also meet with little resistance when you pierce the tongue with a sharp knife. Wait 10 minutes for the tongue to cool before carefully removing the outer skin. It should come away easily.

6. Slice the tongue and serve with the green caper sauce. We served mixed salad greens on the side.

*If you are strict Autoimmune Protocol, eliminate all spices except mace.

E N J O Y !

This recipe featured in the Phoenix Helix AIP Recipe Roundtable.

The Zenbelly Cookbook – a Review + a Sublime Recipe for Roasted Jerusalem Artichokes with Rosemary Salt

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(Image by TSL)

(Image by TSL)

You know those crazy people who line up outside Apple stores to be one of the first to get their paws on the latest iPhone or iPad, even though they know if they wait 48 hours they’d be able to buy without the queues?

I’m the early adopter version of those people in cookbook world.

I have discovered a happy truth. If you preorder a cookbook through Amazon (and are prepared to pay for expedited delivery!), it arrives all the way down here in Sydney-town the day after it is released in the States. How cool is that?

I have long been a fan of Simone Miller of Zenbelly blog fame.

Her philosophy of eating ‘gluten free and mostly Paleo’ appeals to me – both because of the ‘mostly‘ bit (absolutes are so last year, don’t you know!) and because it coincides with how I’d like to be able to eat once I finish with this AIP-caper that I’m on. Here’s hoping!

One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating. (Luciano Pavarotti)

So, when Simone announced that she was creating a Zenbelly cookbook, I knew it was one that I really wanted on my cookbook shelf. I preordered through Amazon and a couple of weeks ago it landed on my doorstep. Yippee!

I’ve never actually met Simone, but her lovely cookbook reflects how I imagine her to be: organised with an irreverent yet pragmatic and accessible style and lots of clean, clever recipes that are achievable for the home cook. To say I like this cookbook is an understatement.

Some things I especially like about The Zenbelly Cookbook

How to Cut Up a Whole Chicken

‘How to: Cut Up a Whole Chicken’ Like a Pro Instructions in the Zenbelly Cookbook
(Image by TSL)

  • There’s a handy-dandy section on basic techniques that show you ‘how to cook like a pro’. Inspired!
  • Each recipe has a photograph of all the ingredients used. I’m a visual person. This really works for me.
  • Every recipe has a photograph of the finished dish. Did I mention I’m a visual person? It always disappoints me when I can’t see what the recipe is supposed to look like in a cookbook.
  • The oysters Rockefeller recipe makes me want to experiment with oysters. Badly… Ditto the Steak Tartare (after I have successfully reintroduced egg yolks, of course!)… And, then there’s the Spaghetti Squash Carbonara. SO many great looking recipes.
  • Maple-bourbon bacon jam. Do I really need to say any more than that?
  • There’s a section on crackers, wraps and breads. Even after all this time, I still miss bread. I’ve made Simone’s biscuits before. A W E S O M E !

I made Simone’s Perfect Roast Chicken last night. And it was crispy on the outside and juicy and succulent on the inside. AND – just about the easiest way to roast a chicken IN THE WORLD!

There were lots of lovely juices in the bottom of the pan for a good gravy, too (I’m a massive fan of roast chicken gravy!)

2 Ingredient Zenbelly Perfect Roast Chook (Before)

The Zenbelly Cookbook 2 Ingredient Perfect Roast Chook (Before)
(Image by TSL)

You could probably get through life without knowing how to roast a chicken, but the question is, would you want to? (Nigella Lawson)

2 Ingredient Zenbelly Perfect Roast Chook (After)

The Zenbelly Cookbook 2 Ingredient Perfect Roast Chook (After)
(Image by TSL)

We all eat, and it would be a sad waste of opportunity to eat badly. (Anna Thomas)

But, my absolute favourit-ist recipe in the cookbook – so far, anyway! – is the Roasted Jerusalem Artichokes with Rosemary Salt. (Those in the U.S. may know these beauties as sunchokes?)

It was the weirdest thing. You might even say it was serendipity… The weekend before the book arrived, I had picked up a rather enormous bag of Jerusalem artichokes at the farmers market without having a clue what I was going to do with them. I had never cooked with them before but I was on one of my ‘time to try a new ingredient’ kicks.

And then, just like magic, when leafing through my new Zenbelly cookbook I spied this recipe. So I tried it. And, it was so good. ESPECIALLY when potatoes are off the menu.

LM and I devoured the first batch while watching this year’s first Bledisloe Cup test.

And then, because we loved them so much, I made them for the second test, too…

And now, I have made another batch so you can see what they look like (it had nothing to do with me wanting more of these scrummy wee beasties!)

The lovely Simone has kindly given me permission to reprint her recipe. If you’re in Australia or New Zealand and you hurry, you might be able to find some Jerusalem artichokes before the season ends.

Trust me. It’s worth it.

Zenbelly's Roasted Jerusalem Artichokes with Rosemary Salt

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 35 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy-peasey
  • Print

Roasted Jerusalem Artichokes with Rosemary Salt

Reprinted from the Zenbelly Belly Cookbook with the author’s permission

Ingredients:

500 g Jerusalem artichokes (sunchokes), cut into large dice, peel on
2 x Tablespoons unsalted butter, duck fat, or fat of choice, melted
1/4 x teaspoon finely ground sea salt
2 x teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
1/4 x teaspoon coarse sea salt
1/8 x teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (optional, leave out if on the autoimmune protocol)

Method

1. Preheat your oven to 250°C/475°F.

2. In a large bowl, toss the Jerusalem artichokes with the melted fat (I used happy duck fat) and finely ground sea salt.

3. Transfer to a rimmed baking tray and roast for 20 – 25 minutes, until soft and golden.

4. Meanwhile, combine the rosemary with the coarse sea salt and black pepper in a small bowl. (I gave them a quick bash with my mortar and pestle to release the rosemary oil).

5. Sprinkle the roasted artichokes with the rosemary salt and serve.

E N J O Y !

Sadly, down in this neck of the woods, it doesn’t look like Dymocks is stocking The Zenbelly Cookbook but Kinokuniya will order it in for you and, of course, Amazon will deliver it to your door.

Fermentation 101 Workshop + a the Idea of Kindness

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TSL Fermentation Workshop

If you look really carefully, you’ll even see Bella sneaking into the shot (top left!)

Ask yourself: Have you been kind today? Make kindness your daily modus operandi and change your world. (Annie Lennox)

Life here at Casa TSL has been very health-focused for some time now. You could say that I’m eating, breathing and even sleeping health. I’m reading about health. I’m watching health-oriented programmes on the goggle-box. I’m learning about the politics of the food pyramid (pretty damning stuff). I’m even studying it.

And, during the course of all this ‘health questing’, there are two things I now know to be true.

1. We are all individuals. What is healthy for me, may not be healthy for you.

2. What we eat is a hugely contentious subject. Everybody has an opinion, and, more often than not, these opinions conflict.

I currently choose to follow the Autoimmune Protocol, a very strict Paleo-esque regime which eliminates all potentially inflammatory foods, in an effort to heal my gut. This is a personal choice made after much searching for answers to my health questions. There is no doubt that it is helping me.

I won’t be on eating this way forever. While there may be foods that I find cannot be introduced back into my diet (wheat!), I’m looking forward to being able to enjoy many, many food, not to mention beverage options (pinot noir, anyone?) in the not-too-distant-future.

And, I am convinced that by consuming the standard diet offered to us here in Australia, as in much of the Western world – overly processed, carbohydrate-heavy, convenience-based – was a key reason I got sick. There is increasing evidence that what we eat affects our health in much more dramatic ways than we ever imagined.

But here’s the kicker: It’s my choice to do this.

If you choose to eat differently, that’s your choice. I won’t judge you. I promise.

Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind. (Henry James)

Here in Australia, there has been a recent war of words between certain higher profile members of the Dietitians Association of Australia and a certain celebrity Paleo proponent.  It’s an emotionally charged subject. Clearly, I have an opinion, and it’s not too difficult to work out which side of the fence I sit on, but – here’s the thing – It’s been getting kind of personal.

And, I just don’t think that’s cricket!

Call me naïve – it wouldn’t be the first time – but, why can’t we just be a little kinder to each other and remember that everyone is entitled to their own view? Is it really that hard to respect individual differences? Or, better yet – be open to differences in opinion?

We, every single one of us, owe it to ourselves to work out what works for us. Nobody will ever care about my health more than me – not the Dieticians Association, not any high-profile nutritionist, and not any celebrity chef, either. And, the same can be said of you.

Always try to be a little kinder than is necessary.(J.M. Barrie)

And, now that I have all of that off my chest, one thing that does seem to be universally accepted is the health benefits of eating lacto-fermented vegetables. Everyone agrees that they are seriously good for you and should be included in a healthy diet.

I’ve written before (here) about the benefits of including fermented foods in your diet, but in a nutshell, fermentation preserves nutrients and beneficial bacteria, and assists your body in digesting carbohydrates.

According to the incredibly knowledgeable Sally Fallon“The proliferation of lactobacilli in fermented vegetables enhances their digestibility and increases vitamin levels. These beneficial organisms produce numerous helpful enzymes as well as antibiotic and anti-carcinogenic substances. Their main by-product, lactic acid, not only keeps vegetables and fruits in a state of perfect preservation but also promotes the growth of healthy flora throughout the intestine.” (from Nourishing Traditions, page 89)

I’ve been making my own fermented vegetables for some time now. I love them (and so does LM). I have a spoonful or two with most meals.

Making your own fermented vegetables is easy, quick (in terms of preparation) and much, much cheaper than buying them from your local health food store. And, you get to ensure your vegetables are organic.

TSL Fermentation 101

Preparing for Fermentation 101 Workshop at Casa TSL
(Image by TSL)

For some reason though, people can be a little hesitant to just dive in and make their own. Something about the fact that this is a ‘live process’. There’s bacteria involved!

So this weekend, I held the inaugural Fermented Vegetables 101 workshop at Casa TSL. I had three lovely guinea pigs students and we spent a couple of hours learning the rudiments of fermentation. Everyone went away with their own 1.5 kilo jar of ‘TSL Special House Kraut’ just waiting to ferment along with notes on the process, and I reckon it was a success!

TSL Fermentation 101

N & A prepping their veggies for massaging…
(Image by TSL)

TSL Fermentation 101

Let the massaging commence!
(Image by TSL)

TSL House Kraut

On the left – TSL’s Special House Kraut two days into the fermentation process. On the right – the finished kraut ready for eating!
(Image by TSL)

I may just look at holding more workshops in the future. Do let me know if you have any interest?