Saturday, 28 February 2015

Slow cooked flat ribs

I reckon flat ribs could be the new lamb shank (before it was put on every menu and became a silly price at the butchers).  Flat ribs are very reasonably priced and if they are not available at your local butchers can be bought through online butchers such as Roaming Rooster and Graigs Farm. 

This is a great weekend meal.  It takes very little prep and can be left cooking whilst you go out - even the smell that hits you when you return is divine!   The meat becomes very tender the longer it is cooked and is suitable for young carnivores! 

We would serve this with roasted butternut squash, potatoes or rice. 


1kg of flat ribs (with bone in)
2 tbsp of coriander seeds (ground)
2 small onions cut up into quarters
4 cloves of garlic peeled (left whole)
1 tsp of salt
1/4 tsp of black pepper
2 capfuls of red wine vinegar


Preheat oven to 180c fan  / Gas Mark 6
Grind the seasoning together and place in a large stainless steel or oven dish
Rub the ribs in the seasoning
Scatter the onion and garlic throughout the dish
Pour over the wine vinegar
Reduce heat to 140c fan / Gas Mark 3
Cover the dish with tinfoil ensuring there is a good seal all the way round
Cook for at least 3 hours.  Do not be tempted to take a peek too early as the tinfoil is sealing in the moisture!

Friday, 27 February 2015

Fak'd bars - raw fruit,seed and nut flapjacks

My kids love Nakd bars and as ready made stuff goes I am happier for them to eat these than biscuits full of trans-fats, sugar and other nasties.  However I like the idea of using less sugar (even if it is natural fruit sugar) and more seeds.  Making your own also allows you to use seeds and nuts that have been previously soaked and dehydrated which reduces the phytic acid levels making them more easily digestible.

This first version went down well but the kids (ever honest) did point out that the commercial bars have cocoa and raisins. I have therefore agreed they may have been slightly misled under the trade description act and will try a cocoa version tomorrow! 

 I used the nut butter for added stickiness and almond flour for extra bulk but both these could be omitted if need be - stick in a handful more dates instead. 

Keep in the fridge so they maintain their shape.  Any crumbly bits would taste fab sprinkled over some natural yoghurt 


200g pitted dates 
50g almond flour 
3 tbsp coconut oil 
1 tbsp honey 
2 tbsp nut butter (I used crunchy almond butter)
100g sunflower seeds
100g pumpkin seeds 


Mix the coconut oil, honey, dates and nut butter in the food processor until it makes a sticky paste 
For a chunky bar with whole seeds remove this mixture from the processor and in a bowl, mix in the seeds and flour by hand 
For a more blended taste add the seeds to the blender and mix until clumping into a ball / desired size of pieces 
Spoon the mixture into a baking tray lined with grease proof paper
Lay another piece of greaseproof paper on the top and press down by hand or with a rolling pin 
Put the covered tray into the fridge to chill for at least one hour then cut into pieces 

What is 'clean eating'?

We often get asked what we eat and what we don't eat (and why).  For a while we just said we were gluten free and dairy free as this covered the key things.  Gluten free is commonplace these days and quite a few people avoid dairy. However we then complicated things by telling friends and family that actually we do eat some grains now, we can tolerate sourdough bread, we refuse to eat commercial gluten free products as they are full of crap and that we make our own yoghurt - no wonder they looked confused!  When we realised what we were doing was closest to being called 'clean eating' we realised this was not a very helpful term either - infact most people now thought we had gone vegan which is ironic as air dried beef is one of my children's favourite snacks!

'Clean eating' is not about avoiding meat, eating only raw food or going macrobiotic!  It is not a strictly defined diet but rather a set of principles (and even some of these are disagreed upon!)  

The overall aim is that you eat food in its most natural state possible with a lot of home cooking.  
It is essentially how most people ate a few decades ago before processed food became so readily available and cheap and before grains, fruit and vegetable were industrially farmed 

You can choose from a range of nutritionally dense food - good quality meat and fish, fruit and vegetables, nuts and seeds and grains. By reducing the toxic load going into the body it makes it easier for the body to operate and to cope with the natural stressers such as stress, environment and illness.   

It's not about perfection but trying to improve your diet and make informed choices about what to buy.  

No-one can eat like this 100% of the time and still work / go on holiday / join in on family occasions. It's about doing your best given the circumstances. 

Some clean eating proponents suggest how many times a day you should eat and when.  I believe that is too restrictive.  We all need to find an eating routine that suits us and works around our commitments.  However it is good sense to not eat anything too heavy before bedtime so your body can take a break from digesting and get on with doing all the other good stuff it needs to do whilst you are asleep.  

There are also some principles we have adopted that are additional to a clean eating mantra which includes increasing probiotic food and avoiding certain grains that we find we don't tolerate well.  It's an old fashioned piece of advice but we also find that getting out in the fresh air every day for a walk and trying to get a longer walk in the weekend helps our digestion (and helps to detox us after a boozy dinner party on a saturday evening!)

Our 'clean eating' food principles are:

 Remove processed food from your diet  This does not just mean taking out the biscuits, the ready meals and the Fish-Fingers, it might mean clearing out baking ingredients, stock cubes, packet sauces etc.  It's about reading labels and looking out for long lists of ingredient and avoiding additives, colours and preservatives that the body doesn't know what to do with. It doesn't necessarily mean throwing out anything that comes in a box or packet or cooking absolutely everything from scratch - for example organic frozen peas are a staple for us and we still buy good quality rice pasta and buckwheat noodles.   We would also buy bread from a local bakery who bake themselves. 

 It sounds complicated and friends often say how do I know what to look for on a packet - in essence if there are more than a couple of ingredients,  if any of the ingredients listed is not a real food, or if there has been a long industrial process to create the food its likely not to be great for you.  There are some foods that by their very nature now are heavily processed such as white flour, corn and soy.  We would avoid these too.  Removing or reducing processed food is the most important step and will allow your body to recalibrate and for you to start to know what foods your body actually needs at any given time.  For example we don't worry about our fat and salt intake - we believe now we have taken out the majority of 'hidden' fat and salt our taste buds will tell us when we have had enough!

 Eat organic fruit, vegetables and grains whenever possible.  Organic sounds elitist but before mass production pretty much all fruit and veg was 'organic'.  I will write another article on organic but safe to say from the research its not just the pesticides that are on non-organic fruit and vegetables that are an issue, its to do with the lack of vitamins and nutrients in produce grown that way.  

Most clean eating guidelines will say to up your fruit and vegetables and we have incorporated a larger and wider variety in our diet.  However there are a couple of caveats to this.  It's no good getting your five - nine a day if its mostly fruit as that is still a lot of sugar, even if it is natural sugar.  Secondly if it came to a choice between affording a larger quantity of non-organic fresh produce and affording a smaller amount of organic fresh produce we would generally opt for the latter.   

Eat high quality meat, fish, dairy and eggs.  If we can't get organic we look for grass fed beef and lamb and free range chicken and pork.  Buying meat direct from farms or good quality butchers should ensure the animal was reared to higher welfare standards with a good diet and minimal antiobiotic ingestion. Try to buy wild fish instead of farmed.  Organic eggs are preferable, otherwise always free-range.  Some people on a clean diet avoid dairy, others only use raw unpasteurised dairy.  We find different family members have different needs but we look to buy goat or sheep products for making yoghurt and choose organic and or unpasteurised cheese and butter when we can.

Eat the whole food and choose whole grains   This means you eat apples not apple juice, you eat the chicken breast not a reformed chicken slice.  Lots of clean eating proponents would also talk about the importance of wholegrains but I would temper that with caution as some people find it hard to digest whole grains including wheatgerm, granary, brown rice etc so its about what works best for your body whilst eating something as nearest to its natural state as possible.  Some people for example cannot tolerate brown rice but do well with basmati which spikes the blood sugar less than other white rice. If you eat gluten its generally accepted that most white flour does most people very little favours and its worth trying more traditional grains like spelt, rye and einkorn.  

Avoid trans-fats and industrialised oils.  There is no room in a clean eating plan for products like sunflower oil, margarine or hydrogenated fats.  Some clean eating enthusiasts talk about avoiding saturated fats but I think there is no clear line between saturated and unsaturated - olive oil is high in saturated fats!  We use solid fats that are stable at high temperatures for cooking such as dripping, ghee and coconut oil  and butter, olive oil and flaxseed oil for other purposes.  We also eat lots of nuts and seeds and avocados which are naturally high in fats. 

Limit or avoid refined salt, sugar and sweeteners.  Basic table salt has had all the minerals stripped out of it and is best kept for gritting icy roads.  Try good quality sea salt or rock salt - you will also need less salt if it is good stuff (but don't be too paranoid as we all need salt for our bodies to function properly).  With regard to sugar its old news that it is not good for kids teeth and can lead to obesity etc but what is just as bad is that to process this sugar their bodies need to use up magnesium.  It may be preferable to sweeten food with honey and fruit. Some others find they tolerate maple syrup or molasses well.  I am reserving judgement on other 'natural' sweeteners such as stevia.  Any fake sugar or sweetener is just another processed food that should be avoided.  Frankly I would rather eat an occasional pudding with cane sugar than some chemically derived crap as at least my body has some inkling of what to do with real sugar. 

Eat naturally probiotic food.  We want to add to the good bacteria in our gut and help our digestion.  In basic terms there are lots of fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut, pickles and kimchi and fermented dairy products such as yoghurt and kefir (that maybe tolerable even for those with lactose issues)  Aged cheeses are in theory easier to digest. 

Take time to eat and relax around food.  We try to ensure we all eat sitting down and as much as possible, eat together as a family.  We know from bitter experience that rows at the table really do affect your digestion so we try to not raise marital / behavioural issues during dinner!  

Keep hydrated and choose drinks wisely.  A nutritionist recently told me that if her clients were only going to make one change she would ask them  cut out fizzy drinks.  We all know they are not good and neither are cordial, energy drinks,  nut milks with added ingredients etc.  Again its about going for the simplest choice with the least ingredients.  Even then natural fruit juice is very high in sugar without the benefit of fibre and is not necessary for our diets. Children in our house are given water. Fresh juice, Feel Good or Appetiser is an occasional treat if we are eating out or entertaining.  We are realists and we still have some caffeine and alcohol.  However we aim to reduce caffeine to a couple of cups a day and avoid instant coffee.  We drink less alcohol and when possible buy better quality alcohol such as traditionally brewed beer, pressed cider and organic wine.  

Avoid contaminants from your cookware / crockery.  Again it would need a separate article to go through all the wheres and whys but we try to use traditional ware such as glass, steel and ceramic. Glass is great for cooking and storing hot or cold food (and can be used in freezer).  We use steel baking trays or line aluminium baking trays with non-bleached paper.  We choose BPA free plastic for lunch boxes and water bottles and avoid heating anything up in plastic or storing hot food in plastic.  

Limit chemical cleaners in the home and especially in the kitchen.  The media feed us scary images in attempt to sell lots of cleaning products but there are natural alternatives that can be used and still maintain sanitary standards! Plus we all need to build up some resistance to bacteria.  

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Beef casserole

This is a simple dish for the stress rich and time poor.  Undoubtedly there are more sophisticated dishes out there but this recipe proves how easy it is to make a delicious dinner when you are using proper stock and good quality ingredients like organic vegetables and grass fed beef.  Once you realise just how easy, you will never buy a stock cube again! 

If you are paleo / low starch this works well with roasted butternut squash or even just a generous portion of greens. In our house half go for this option and the other half for heavily (goats) buttered mash. Add some sauerkraut or pickles for fermented goodness!  

The ingredients below would make enough for a family of four but I would always double these as you then have another meal for another night. As with all casseroles it tastes even better made one day in advance. If I am organised enough I make this just before I have family or friends visiting for the weekend as its a good 'banker' to have prepared. 

If you want to give this dish a deeper flavour add in half a dozen chopped anchovies in at the same time as the vegetables.   The kids will never tell I promise! 

The method below involved browning the meat and sweating vegetables which does improve the flavour but all of these ingredients could just get bunged into a slow cooker if pushed for time (however I would then ensure the wine and stock have been heated in a pan till simmering to ensure there is enough heat to start the cooking process) 


500-600g of shin of beef cut into inch size chunks 
1 large carrot (cut into batons) 
1 medium onion (cut in half and then sliced) 
1 stick of celery (finely chopped) 
Approx 1/4 bottle of red wine
500ml home made stock (beef is ideal, chicken will work) 
2 -3 bay leaves 
1 - 2 tbsp of organic or grass fed beef dripping (or ghee) 
Salt and pepper for seasoning 


Preheat the oven to 80C or the slow cook setting 
Chop the vegetables and set aside 
In an ovenproof casserole pot heat a tbsp of oil on a medium-hot hob and add in the beef.  Cook for a couple of minutes ensuring you stir it so the meat browns all over which will seal in the flavour. 
Remove the meat and add the vegetables to the pan, adding more oil if necessary 
Cook the vegetables for at least five minutes so they have softened then add the meat back in and stir
Add in the wine, stock, bay leaves and seasoning and bring back to heat until you get a vigorous simmer 
Cover the pot and put in the oven to cook for at least 6 hours. The meat will become more tender if left for eight. 

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Cashew nut pancakes

Who knew you could make flourless pancakes that taste better than the traditional ones?  A delicious and nutrient dense way to start the day and as they are cooked in coconut oil a way of getting some great fats into your diet too!

These are not a thin crepe like pancake, they bear much more of a resemblance to a scotch pancake.  Much easier to flip!

This recipe is adapted from Kendall Conrad's brilliant book Eat Well Feel Well designed for people who are following a grain free diet.    She serves hers with an orange butter but we have ours with chopped fruit (strawberries, blueberries and bananas work well), lemon slices and drizzled with honey.

If you are new to nut flour its worth bearing in mind it can burn more easily than other flour so you might need to turn your hob down once you have the oil hot.


200g cashew nuts
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
Pinch of salt
4 tbsp of yoghurt (homemade or natural)
4 eggs
1.5 tbsp honey
1/2 - 3/4 tsp of vanilla essence (depending on personal taste)
Coconut oil for cooking 

  • Blitz the dry ingredients in a food processor until you get a very fine grain like appearance.  
  • Add the other ingredients and blend again to batter consistency
  • Add half tbsp of oil to a large frying pan over a medium heat
  • Once the oil is hot pour in the batter - we use about a ladle full to create a small pancake and do three at a time.  
  • After about a minute you will start to see bubbles forming.  This means the pancakes are ready to be flipped.
  • Cook for a further minute or so till the batch of pancakes are golden brown
  • Add at least a tsp of oil to the pan before adding new batter 
  • Serve immediately with honey and fruit 

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Chicken stock / bone broth

This is a basic stock that works well for soups and most casseroles (even those with beef or lamb meat)

You can use raw or cooked chicken carcasses.  I usually roast two birds then make stock the next day and this will give me 3-4 portions of stock. The vegetables give the stock more flavour but if you don't have them its fine to make a stock with just seasoning. 

The longer it simmers the more the bones break down releasing good stuff into the stock.

Ingredients (per carcass) 

Chicken carcass
1/2 dozen black peppercorns 
1/2 onion, roughly sliced 
1 small carrot cut into chunks 
1 stick of celery 


Put all the ingredients in a large pan and cover with water (ideally filtered) 
Bring to the boil then simmer on a low heat for at least 3 hours. 
Strain off into glass dishes, allow to cool before storing 

Sunday, 8 February 2015


This is a world away from bland mushy shop bought guacamole.  It has a bit of a kick - it can easily be made more or less spicy by changing the amount of chilli used.

You could mash the avocado to create a very smooth texture but it also works well with a coarser finish with some small chunks of avocado. 


2 ripe avocados 
1/4 of a medium onion   
Approx 1 inch of a green chilli (deseeded) 
1/2 tsp cider vinegar 
1tsp olive oil 
Small clove of garlic 


Roughly mash the avocado 
Crush the garlic 
Very finally chop the onion and chilli 
Combine all ingredients and add salt to taste