Friday, 21 July 2017

How To Do A Paleo BBQ

Some ideas and suggestions on how to make the most of the sunshine and make a healthy paleo barbecue. 

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At first, doing a paleo barbecue might seem easy. Just skip the bread, pretty much. 

And that's good - but how about some ideas that will give your cookout a bit of flair - something that people will be talking about for ages? Maybe a few dishes that your guests might not have tried before? And what about drinks, and salads or other sides? 

I've got ya. Check this out. 

Main event 
Don't think, just because you're eating paleo that you need to eat shedloads of meat. Yes, I love burgers on the barbecue - how about these beef burgers I eat with watercress for a bit of peppery crunch and all important nutrients, eh? - but also there are these beautiful herby lamb koftas, which are as easy as sliding seasoned minced lamb onto a skewer and chucking on the bars of the grill until cooked through. The smoke from the coals seasons the meat further, leaving a beautiful chargrilled finish. Lovely. And my all time favourite thing we cook on the barbecue is these spatchcocked poussins - marinated in parsley, lemon and garlic. The skin crispens in the heat of the coals and leaves the meat succulent and juicy and full of flavour. We cook this when we have friends over, and they always love it. It would work with chicken, too. Or how about trying out a Chinese spiced rub? Sausages are a little but trickier if you want to go full paleo - we generally just choose gluten free sausages - but if you're avoiding grains completely (many gluten free types are stuffed with rice flour for bulk) then have a word with your butcher. Otherwise, any cut of meat that you can barbecue is good. After all, it's basically how real life paleo people would have eaten it - cooked over a flickering flame and some smoke. Talk about being authentic. 

But, like I said, it's not all about the meat. You can spear prawns onto skewers too - marinate them in a little lime juice, ground turmeric and chopped coriander leaf and you're good to go. They'll cook quickly, too. Scallops are another one - I'd barbecue them with streaky bacon on skewers, but that's pretty much because I can't leave bacon alone, and always crave salty bacon when I taste the sweetness of a freshly cooked scallop. If you have a fish basket, you can slide in a whole fish to cook slowly. Or just loosely wrap in foil. My cousin cooked a whole trout on the barbecue (he'd fished it out of the Hampshire river the day before) just wrapped in foil with some lemon squeezed over and some herbs sprinkled over the top. Best trout ever. Fish steaks can be a bit tricky without foil as they can stick to the grill bars and disintegrate when you try to turn them - brush with olive oil to help stop this happening and turn confidently - especially if it's a flakier fish like bass or sole. I'd probably wrap those in foil, if it was me. 

You're going to need something saucy to swab over your steak, right? You could go proper traditional and go for chimichurri - or go for one of its other forms (I've told you before how I'm always being told off by my Argentine husband for messing with it) - try mustard chimichurri, wild garlic chimichurri or mint chimihcurri - the last one's especially good with lamb. Also try the other classic Argentine salsa, Salsa Criolla - it's crunchy, sweet and really good for you. Beautiful with chicken or beef. I love my home made tarragon mayonnaise with a medium rare steak, although my wild garlic mayo would also work with pretty much anything, even seafood, fish and chicken. 

Go for something crunchy, with a fresh, tangy flavour, to counteract all the protein you'll be eating. I love this red cabbage slaw, with carrot and sliced spring onion, that I came up with last year. For something sweet, try a fruity cantaloupe melon and prosciutto salad or try this one with strawberries, which feels summery and fresh. This raspberry balsamic vinaigrette is beautiful with poultry or game, and it will be a flavour many of your guests won't probably have tried before. 

Don't forget that it doesn't always have to be salads - you can slice sweet potato up into thick discs, brush with oil and spices and then barbecue for a few minutes on each side, or until tender. Or try asparagus, little gem leaves, hearts of palm, canned artichoke hearts or butternut squash. Or do what I do and stick some sweet potato fries in the oven and bring them out when the meat's cooked. 

You could rely on something in the fridge or freezer - strawberry coconut ice cream, for example (this is so good), or a tart you've made and stored in the fridge. Or you could serve up some fresh fruits, which are always welcome on a hot day, as are lollies. But have you ever thought about barbecuing your pud? Slice plums or peaches and remove the stones and leave them on the barbecue while you chat and twiddle the last lamb chop bones between your fingers, and just let them warm through slowly. Serve hot and lined black from the bars of the grill, with a good dollop of coconut cream or your favourite ice cream. Or, what we do is slice a banana (leave the peel on) vertically down the middle and push in some chocolate (I use Ombar, which has friendly bacteria in it). Wrap loosely in foil and arrange them, glinting in the sun, onto the barbecue. Turn every once in a while. After 10-15 minutes the skin will turn black and the banana inside will be soft and caramel-like. Get a teaspoon and scoop out all that gooey loveliness. 

It's up to you if you like to serve alcohol at a barbecue. I'm learning that alcohol doesn't do me any favours - sometimes after alcohol I go red and flushed and talk rubbish (OK, more rubbish than usual) and other times I'll just get a headache. My tolerance to alcohol, after so long not drinking it, is pretty low nowadays, so I generally stay away, especially on a hot afternoon in the garden - but people can bring their own beers if they like. Instead, I'll make up a jug of fruity iced tea, like this blackberry camomile tea or this virgin raspberry mojito. Infused water is good, too - just combine water with ice and some fruity aromatics, like lemon, lime, sliced citrus fruits and berries. Or, if you're a coffee drinker, make some masa gran - another recipe I've learned rom my Argentine family. It's amazing how refreshing this is on a hot day. 

Do you have any paleo barbecue tips? Let me know or link to your favourite recipes here so we can all try them out...

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Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Review of The Keystone Approach by Rebecca Fett

A look at the book The Keystone Approach, which offers tips for healing autoimmune disease through diet and lifestyle - specifically arthritis and psoriasis. 

The links in this post are affiliate links. This means that if you click on them and make a purchase, I might receive a small commission (at no extra cost to you) that helps me support the blog.

As you know, I started the autoimmune protocol (AIP) around four years ago, to heal psoriasis. The great thing is that although the psoriasis patches disappeared all over my body, I also accidentally healed IBS, constant nausea and bloating, headaches and lost a load of weight at the same time. Doctors had always said I was obese. Now I'm well in the heathy range for my height. My cholesterol levels are looking good. None of the psoriasis that disappeared has returned. Which is all fantastic. 

I still have that one patch of itchy, flaky skin on the back of my scalp, and although it doesn't bother me too much nowadays, compared to how I was, I had suspected that I needed something of a diet and lifestyle boost, or perhaps a slight change in approach to finish it off and get rid of it. It felt as if AIP just wasn't somehow still enough for me any more. I'd drank bone broth, eaten coconut yoghurt, tried kombucha and have a fridge stocked full of veggies and grass fed meats. But still no change. And so it was at the perfect time that Rebecca Fett emailed me and asked me if I'd like to have a look at her new book, The Keystone Approach. I downloaded it onto my Kindle for ease of reading. 

Many of the tips in the book are, as you'd expect, quite similar to the autoimmune protocol. You're advised to treat paleo foods like nuts and nightshades with caution and even remove them completely, until you know what it is that gets your immune system all hot and bothered. The focus is on healing the gut and looking after and feeding the all important gut microbiome. Grains, processed food and refined sugars are also removed, as are eggs (the yolks are said to be more easily tolerated by many than the whites), so there are definitely similarities between this and AIP. But there are points where they differ, and one of them is to do with the fats that you're eating. 

The Keystone Approach suggests a Mediterranean-style AIP: avocados, olives, lemon, leaner meats and seafood, along with lots of veggies - particularly greens like kale, too. But it also recommends olive oil, which it's said has significant inflammation lowering characteristics, over saturated fat. There is also an emphasis on which bacteria you should be feeding to help lower inflammation, and there are tips on how you can tailor your diet to achieve this, with convincing explanations as to why you should. 

What makes all this interesting for me is that for the past six months I've been struggling with gastric problems and constant reflux and indigestion. I kept a food diary, and noticed that this got worse when I drank tea or ate chocolate. But it also always happened after a fatty meal like pulled pork or bacon and eggs. Or sweet potatoes roasted in duck fat. Looking back, fats - even natural, saturated fats - always seemed to upset my stomach. I know after a week of eating quite a bit of fish or seafood, my stomach feels much better and more settled. As digestive problems can be one of the signs of something not quite right, the advice given in The Keystone Approach definitely rang a few bells for me. I'd always eaten cruciferous veggies sparingly, thinking they'd bring on gastric problems (I'm verging on a bit of low FODMAP), but knowing now the extent to which they can help feed the beneficial gut bacteria, I've added them into my diet daily, just a small portion at a time, so that I can get used to it. I'm hoping it will help and I'll keep you all posted. 

The book is thoroughly researched, and everything is explained very clearly. There are some recipes towards the back of the book, and I've bookmarked a few of these to try in the coming weeks. I'm interested to see if this can help heal my psoriasis - it's really great to have a book that focuses on psoriasis, rather than try and put all the autoimmune diseases (and there are many) under one umbrella. I found it an interesting and engaging read, and it gave me a new perspective on my healing. It does concentrate a lot on the diet side of things, and I think more emphasis on lifestyle (sleep, exercise, etc) would have been useful, but as it goes, it really is a great read if you suffer from psoriasis or arthritis. I'll make the changes and let you know how I feel in the coming months. 

Have a look at The Keystone Approach here on Amazon - it's available in paperback or downloadable onto your Kindle or device with a Kindle app, too. 

Have you read The Keystone Approach? Let me know what you thought about it in the comments below.