Thursday, January 30, 2014

Organ meats anyone?

I remember, as a kid, being given kidneys as part of a warm salad for dinner.  The whole notion of a warm salad was rather brave & in our part of Co. Waterford was definitely 'nouvelle cuisine', but kidneys?  Oh man, I hated them.  Even now, I'm not sure what animal they came from, but I guess it was chicken...they were really tiny.  The smell and texture made me retch and put me off all organ meats forever, or so I thought.

Thankfully, my mother had the wisdom to try other methods of getting organ meats into us.  Every now and then she would make a big batch of chicken liver pâté, freeze most of it and on special occasions present us with a ramekin of smooth creamy heaven.  Even though I knew it was called 'liver' pâté, I didn't quite make the connection with organ meats.  Even my brother loved it and still does, despite being the fussiest eater in the family.  I always thought it must be very expensive to make, as we only had it very rarely, but now I know better.  It's really inexpensive and so easy and quick to make.  If you don't mind handling organ meats and are confident that you can get them from a reputable source, then it's well worth trying.

Obviously if you're vegetarian then this recipe isn't for you.  However, if you're a meat eater as I am, using as much of the animal as possible makes me feel better about eating it in the first place, even if they look pretty unappetising in their raw state.  I'm lucky to have found a fantastic butcher in Malmö  'Vilt Specialisten' who specialises in wild game and organic pasture reared meat, which is naturally higher in all kinds of nutrients including the much talked about Omega-3.

If you're not sure about organ meats, let me try to convince you.  Organ meats like liver, kidneys and heart are rich in many nutrients, particularly fat soluble ones like Vitamin A & D, minerals selenium, zinc and iron, B vitamins and Vitamin K2.  B12 is particularly rich in liver, as that's where it's stored (unlike other B vitamins) and is hard to get if you don't eat much meat or animal products.  Deficiencies in B12 can lead to issues with cell division and blood volume, mood disorders, depression and anxiety.  Also found in organ meats is a nutrient called Co-enzyme Q10, which is essential for energy production and is often lacking when we are fatigued or suffering from conditions like chronic fatigue, adrenal fatigue or long term stress.  All of these nutrients are essential for very active people and are often lacking in our diets, even if we feel we are eating healthily.  This pâté recipe includes grass fed butter (organic if you can get it) which really helps us to absorb the fat soluble nutrients in the liver.

Convinced?  Well, I reckon that's quite enough theory, here's the recipe

Chicken Liver Pâté

125g organic grass fed butter (easy to get in Ireland, not so easy here in Sweden!)
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Small handful of thyme leaves (rosemary or tarragon work well too, I find sage a bit strong)
500g fresh, free-range organic chicken livers
Unrefined sea salt (like Maldon)
Freshly ground black pepper
40ml orange juice (ideally freshly squeezed)
60ml brandy (or just more orange juice)

Optional - 200g of butter and extra herb sprigs to seal the pâté.

What to do:

  1. In a large frying pan or wide saucepan, add 2tbsp of the butter over a low heat.  Add the onion and garlic and 1/2 tsp of salt.  Let this cook slowly and gently until soft and translucent, but not brown.
  2. Add the brandy, thyme and orange juice, simmer for 2 minutes to cook off the alcohol and reduce slightly.
  3. Add the chicken livers.  Cook them gently, turning regularly until they are opaque on the outside but still burgundy on the inside.  Take off the heat.  
  4. Transfer the liver & onion mix to a food processor (a blender may also work, but the blade is smaller so you will probably need to do it in several batches).  Add another 1/2 tsp of salt, a good pinch of pepper and blitz for 1 minute until almost smooth.  Cut up the remaining butter and add piece by piece with the processor running.  Taste and add more seasoning if you think it needs it.  Now, to get it really smooth, process for another 2 minutes.
  5. Transfer the mix to a large ceramic terrine dish, or as I did, several ramekins which makes it easier to freeze some and eat the rest.  If you wish, you can seal the pâté with the additional butter, by melting it first with a few rosemary or thyme leaves then gently spooning over the pâté.  Once this butter sets, it acts as a seal and helps to prevent oxidation of the precious fats inside.
  6. Put it in the fridge and leave to set for a few hours, ideally overnight.  Freeze most of it (covered with clingfilm or a lid to protect from freezer burn) and tuck into whatever you keep in the fridge.  It's lovely spread on veg sticks or on sourdough toast for breakfast or lunch. 
What do you think, will you try it?  I'd love to see photos if you do, share them on my facebook page!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Who knew raw chocolate was so easy to make?!

On Friday night, as I waited to collect Mountain Man from the train station, I had some time to kill so decided to try my hand at making raw chocolates.  I have never made them before, but always planned to.

I'm told that the bag of very expensive raw cacao butter in the baking cupboard has been there for 2 years.  I made lip balm, once...and then just kept meaning to make chocolate.  Another nutritional therapist friend of mine beat me to it last week and made her own, posting the recipe on facebook and inspiring me to give it a go (when I saw how simple it was).  So, I made some chocolates.  Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

If you're wondering why you'd bother making chocolate, when there are plenty of options in the shops, home made raw chocolate is different.  For a start, there's no soya or milk powder or other weird fillers in chocolate you make yourself (why is soya used in chocolate?)  Secondly, you can put whatever you want into them and have fun experimenting.  Thirdly, raw cacao is super rich in health giving nutrients as it has not been heated to the point where nutrients are damaged.  So those promises of chocolate being full of mood boosting chemicals, antioxidants, healthy fats and minerals are true, but more true with raw chocolate than the highly processed varieties we tend to see in the shops.

I have no doubt that what I made was pretty basic and master chocolatiers would laugh at my efforts, there are all sorts of clever things you can do to make it even more impressive.  However, as a first attempt, I'm pretty chuffed and they taste mighty fine if I do say so myself!

60g raw cacao butter
60g raw cacao powder
40g coconut sugar, milled to a fine powder in a nut or coffee mill

Filling - I used
2 dsp pumpkin seeds, toasted and milled
3 dsp Super Life breakfast topping, also milled

To make:
Melt cacao butter in a glass bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (make sure the bowl doesn't sit in the water)
Once melted, add in the cacao powder & sugar
Mix thoroughly, then add whatever filling you fancy and keep mixing until it's smooth and gorgeous
Pour the mix into silicone sweet/chocolate moulds, or as I did onto a baking sheet (because I completely underestimated how many moulds I'd need)
Put the moulds into the fridge and ignore for at least an hour
Eat and rejoice at how good raw chocolate tastes.  YUM!