Friday, 16 December 2011

Oxtail Stew and a Winter Challenge

UPDATE: I'm taking part in a blog challenge this year : The 5th Annual The Dark Days Challenge, which is all about local cooking. I noticed that I'd been pretty slack with eating local lately, so what better motivation than joining a blog challenge?! :D Every week I'll try and post one meal made mostly (or entirely) with local ingredients. I've started a little late because when I signed up I was put in the Lower New England/Mid Atlantic group (though I live in England, UK!) so was confused about whether I could take part but apparently I can, yay! I just happen to be the only English participant hehe. But no worries, I look forward to showcasing the wonderful local food England has to offer! :D. My first local meal is my oxtail stew:

Mmmmmm....Oxtail stew....(*cue Homer-Simpson-like drooling)

This has got to be one of my all time favourite foods/meals. You just can't beat oxtail! It's rich, tender, melt-in-the-mouth, gelatinous, meaty...deliciousness.

Technically it's a 'winter-dish' ; warm, comforting, perfect to dig into on a cold night. But I even make it in Summer. Call me crazy, but yeah, I have the oven on the whole day during Summer. Seriously, it's worth it!!

So, this is really simple to make (no recipe required per se), and involves simply chucking a bunch of stuff in a casserole dish (a Le Creuset  is my favourite, but use a crock-pot or any other dish suitable for stews), and filling it with a mixture of water and red wine.

I usually make it by separating the parts of one whole oxtail, marinating it in a few tsp of turmeric powder for a few hours (or just put the turmeric directly in the liquid), then covering with water, a 1/4 bottle of red wine, and some crushed rosemary. Bring it the boil then whack it in the oven for 3 hours. Then add some chopped celeriac or swede, greens (kale and chard are my fave), brussels sprouts or any other seasonal veg that I like, and maybe a few cloves of garlic if I'm in a garlicky mood. Back in the oven for two more hours or until tender. Done. The only thing to do next is tuck in with a fork and spoon for the delicious broth, and don't feel too bad about eating the entire oxtail in one evening  :)

My local food sources
Grassfed Oxtail - Wild beef (from Borough market)
Kale and chard - Wild country organics (from Notting Hill farmers market)
Swede and brussells sprouts- Ted's veg (Notting hill farmers market)

I'm submitting this to Fight back Fridays and Dark Days Challenge

Thursday, 1 December 2011


I stumbled across this picture a few days ago. It made me laugh. But at the same time it  inspired me to write about frankenfoods (merely the sight of the word Monsanto stirs up some anger inside me that inspires me to spread the word about how evil they are... haha) 
Ok, so most people have probably heard about GMO foods but don't know too much about them. Genetically modified foods are foods where the DNA has been manually modified - usually a gene is added - in order to give the plant new traits that it wouldn't have in nature. It's a step beyond selective breeding, with  possibly disastrous consequences.

The safety of GMO foods is unknown. There is lots of stuff on the internet about the hazards of GMOS and I'm not sure if ALL of it is true, but I'd rather be on the safe side. Messing with nature never turns out to be good. And anyway, many 'studies' that people quote in order to argue that they are harmless are either seriously flawed or funded by the very companies that are screwing up our food (Monsanto). 

To give you an idea of the lengths such companies go, they genetically engineered crops like corn, soy and cotton, whereby the only herbicide that could be used on them was Roundup (made by, you guessed it...Mon-fucking-santo!). So they convinced farmers that these spankin' new seeds would have higher yields and reduce labour costs and basically transform their lives. But then the farmers had to buy all these Roundup chemicals in addition to the seeds. Furthermore, they had to buy new seeds every year. And what happened? The crops failed. And number upon number of farmers committed suicide.

Oh yeah,  then there was that other story about two fox news journalists who did a research piece on Bovine growth hormone. When Monsanto found out about it they tried to make the journalists change the story, but when they refused to lie, Monsanto pressured Fox to fire them. Friggin' insane huh? Read here for more details. These money obsessed companies should NOT be allowed to mess around with my food. With anyone's food.

That isn't the only problem of GMO crops. Not only have they failed in their promise to 'feed the starving' and ensure a more stable food supply, there's evidence that they may be dire consequences to health of animals and ecosystems. Here's just a few..
-One study  on genetically modified peas had to be abandoned after it caused lung damage in mice, while other studies have shown GM foods cause organ failure in mice.
-GMO crops can increase allergic reactions, as allergenic proteins from one food could be transferred to other foods
-Genetically engineered rBGh given to cows in the US to increase milk yields also increases infection and risk of birth defects in cows. The effect on humans is likely to be increased cancer risk as the milk also has increased levels of IGF-1 which may increase cancer in humans
-Messing around with genes and plants could create superweeds
- There's evidence that genes from GMO foods might transfer to gut bacteria 

And the list goes on...

The scary thing is, GMO foods are now pretty widespread, especially in the US. It is said that about 70% of foods in the grocery store contain GMO foods. That shocks me. I am lucky to live in Europe where consumer opposition has meant that GMO foods are banned. However there are still some examples (although more regulated than in the US) of GMO crop growing in Europe, especially Spain. Furthermore there is widespread feeding of GMO crops (like soy) to animals, which are then eaten by humans. This is one of the reasons why I choose to buy organic food as much as possible; the organic label guarantees that there are no genetically modified organisms involved in any part of the food's production.
But even then, there's the risk of cross pollination of GM crops with non GM crops, which will be more likely if GMO crops become more widespread.  It's sad that governments have allowed this to be unleashed on the world without first strictly testing that they are safe. 
But hopefully as more people become aware of what is going on behind closed doors, we can put a stop to this madness! 

The institute of responsible technology has lots of info, and if you want to know more about how you can avoid GMOs check this guide out.

This post is part of Fight Back Friday

Saturday, 12 November 2011


I eat raw meat.

Yup. Meat that has never seen heat. In fact there was a period in my life (the raw paleo phase) when I didn't eat anything BUT raw meat.
So I told this to a friend of mine a while back (months ago) and after his initial suprise he asked me what I would make for someone who'd never eaten raw meat before, a sort of 'introduction dish' to the joys of bloody muscle. I said I'd make kitfo - an ethiopian dish consisting of minced raw beef eaten with mitmita (a spice blend) and niter kibbeh (a spiced butter). So he said 'we must do kitfo soon!' and after a few months we finally set a date!

Now due to my lack of ability to follow recipes exactly, I took inspiration from a few recipes on the internet, but my recipe is most like this one.

So what did my friend think of it, you ask? Well he tried it. He didn't finish it. But he didn't gag or anything haha. I think a lot of us are socially conditioned to think of raw meat as gross (and being told that it's full of bacteria that will harm us doesn't help things either...) and it can take a while to overcome that conditioning. I didn't enjoy it all the first time I ate raw meat. But with time, my taste buds changed, and I look forward to eating raw meat dishes now!

INGREDIENTS (for 2 people)
about 400g minced beef (I froze some grassfed beef top round for 2 weeks to kill any possible parasites, and minced it myself)
 100g butter
4-5 shallots or 1/2 an onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic
A chunk of ginger, grated
1 cinnamon stick, crushed
A few cardamom pods, crushed
1 tsp cumin seeds, crushed
a small chunk of nutmeg, grated
Berbere spice mix
Salt to taste

1. To make the spiced butter, melt the butter in a pan. Skim off any foam, and pour of the clarified butter. See here for detailed instructions on making clarified butter
2.  Put shallot, garlic, cinnamon, cardamom, cumin and nutmeg in the butter, and leave to infuse (I left it in the hot butter for about an hour)
3. Meanwhile mix the ground beef with the berbere (make sure beef is room temperature or warm)
4. When ready to serve, scoop some beef into a bowl and pour some butter over. Enjoy!

I'm submitting this post to Food Renegade's Fight Back Friday. Check it out for more real food posts.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Kids are wise

11/11/11. Today my brother got married! It was a lovely ceremony, in the English town of Reading (where they first started dating). There was the actual registry (where I was an official witness to their marriage along with the bride's brother), the hilarious moment when we found out my brother was wearing Spiderman socks on his wedding day, lots of photos, throwing confetti and  then a long but fun lunch (where i deviated quite a bit from my usual 'diet' but without the guilt and worry of a past self - more on this in a future post)  at a nearby restaurant.

One of my favourite parts of today, however, was hanging out with my two cousins (ages 9 and 13). It was just so refreshing to joke around and have banter with KIDS. I've always enjoyed spending time with children. Sometimes I'd rather hang out with them than adults. Their innocence, their lack of deception, relative lack of following 'convention' and social norms, their ability to see the world from a unique perspective

They had their ipads/iphones ( I don't even know what exactly, I don't bother with keeping up to date with technological advancements seen as almost everything I touch breaks!) and were playing games which I joined in with. I have to say, I don't agree with kids these days spending so much time playing computer games etc when it's much healthier (emotionally and physically) to be outdoors. But whatever, it was fun playign shark games, and generally talking to them about funny youtube videos and more. Something that stuck out to me though, was when I asked their ages again to make sure. And they said I'm practically a kid too. I said "I'm 21, that's pretty much an adult! I feel so old!", and then they started talking about what makes you a grown-up. The 9 year old said "You're a grown up when you sit when you'd rather jump" and a few others which were generally about how you're a grown up when you're boring or serious etc. And i thought that's so true. You're not old until you stop enjoying life and living it to the full. I loved these guy's perspective on what it means to be a grown up. If you want to run and jump and shout and just have fun and be are not a grown up! Well, you know what? I may be 21 but I plan on being a kid forever! :D

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Sourdough bread

Wow, so my first ever gluten free sourdough experiment was a success! I literally haven't eaten ANY type of bread in at least 5 years, probably more. But I always loved experimenting in the kitchen as a kid, and I happened to stumble across some gluten free sourdough recipes and thought I could create a 'safe starch' bread of sorts using rice flour and tapioca flour. This isn't at all similar to 'regular' bread, which is fluffier and lighter, but then again I don';t really see the point of regular bread anyway! This is actually really good - it has a lovely tangy flavour from the sourdough, with a dense, moist inside and crunchy crust.
The second time I made this (today) I slathered on some coconut oil, and Oh my Gawd it was heavenly!
 Now, the thing with this 'recipe' is that I totally winged it. I got ideas from various blogs but didn't follow any measurements except perhaps for the very start of the starter. I'll write down below exactly what I did.

3 tbsp brown rice flour
Plenty of white rice flour
Tapioca flour
Filtered water
A few organic grapes

For starter
I first added 3 tbsp brown rice flour and  1/4C filtered water into a clean sterlized glass jar. I then added about 5 organic red grapes, mashing them into the mixture (the grapes add natural yeasts to kick off the starter). Left it for a day in a warm place. Then scooped out the grape seeds/skin, and added another few tbsp flour (this time white rice flour) and water, to make it the consistency of pancake batter. Again left in a warm place till it started to get bubbly and smell slightly alcoholic. Since then, I've added a bit of rice flour, and some water (no measuring), every 12 hours or so  then left to get bubbly again. Adding flour/water is called "feeding" the starter and keeps it alive. After about a week I felt it was ready to use to make bread

For bread
I simply poured some of the bubbly starter into a bowl, added white rice flour and tapioca flour till I could mix it into a dough (not too wet that it doesn't hold its shape but not too dry either. I mixed the dough with my hands, added some salt, formed a round and left in a warm place for an hour or two to rise slightly. I then baked it at about 150C for 45-60 mins till crisp on top.

I am entering this post to Fight back Fridays. Click on the link to see more real food posts!

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Last of the summer icecream

Aaah my first post. The first (chocolatey) mark on an otherwise clean, fresh blog. What better way to kick things off than with my last batch of icecream, made not too long ago. One of my favourite things about summer is fresh raw jersey cream - that delicious yellow liquid gold, so thick you gotta shake the bottle to get it to come out. Mixed with a few egg yolks, carob powder, cocoa powder and sweetener, poured into my stainless steel non electric icecream maker, and eaten right from the bowl in the sunny garden, I can't think of many better things about summer.
This recipe is based on the icecream recipe in the book Nourishing traditions. It can be made without the cocoa/carob for vanilla ice cream.

I never really measure stuff out, just add enough sweetener/cocoa till it suits my taste. If you like things a little chocolatey-er (i know that's not a real word) or sweeter (or even less) feel free to play around!


2 C raw cream
2 egg yolks
2 tsp arrowroot 
1/2 C rice syrup (or preferred sweetener. Note that if you use stevia or a sugarfree sweetener, the icecream will not be as creamy, but this can be solved by adding a dash of vodka)
1 T vanilla extract (or vanilla seeds)
1.5 T cocoa powder
1 T carob powder (or replace with cocoa)

Mix ingredients till smooth, chill, pour into icecream maker :)