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Braised Pork & Incaberry Stew

April 28, 2015

I cut the salami in chunks here, but shredding it is better.

I cut the salami in chunks here, but shredding it is better.

I do love pork belly. Especially when it is roasted and served with a crackling crispy skin. But pork belly also makes a fabulous stew. The strata of fat leaves the pork moist and succulent and the result is rich and flavourful – a little goes a long way.

Now that it is cooler, we are craving something more substantial and warming. This dish is a hybrid of an old Hungarian recipe with a Portuguese one! I wanted to use my incaberries in a savoury dish rather than another sweet recipe, and I think that I hit on something great here! The incaberries tartness cut through the richness of the meat – and the seeds add fabulous texture. This dish was really popular with my family, everyone asking when we were having it again!

pork stew2

500g pork belly, cut in 3cm cubes

1/2 teas salt

1 teas smoked paprika

200g onion (1 large)

3 garlic cloves

30g olive oil

80g hot salami slices, shredded

200g tomatoes (3 large)

400g water

2 tabs vege stock paste

300g cabbage or eggplant

2 sprigs rosemary

80g incaberries

handful pitted olives

1 small green capsicum, cut into 8 pieces

Sprinkle the pork with salt & paprika and leave for an hour.

Chop onion & garlic for 3 seconds on SP 5. Add oil and sauté for 7 mins at 100°C on SP 1.
Add tomato & pork sauté for 5 mins on 100°C, REVERSE SP 1.

Coarsely chop the cabbage and/or eggplant into chunks and place in the Varoma tray.

To the TM, add water, stock, rosemary and salami and cook for 20 mins on VAROMA temp, SP 1 REVERSE with the Varoma tray on top to steam the vegetables.

Set the cabbage aside and add the incaberries, capsicum and olives and continue to cook for another 15 minutes. Serve with the steamed vegetables on mashed potato or my winter parsnip mash.

Go here for another warming and yummy pork belly stew.

Inca-berry and Ginger Hazelnut Pudding

April 24, 2015

Serve with cream or ice-cream

                                                 Serve with cream or ice-cream

Recently, I was very lucky to receive some sample products from the lovely Melanie at the Source Bulk Foods shop in Bulimba.

I am familiar with the brand as I have regularly visited their Balmain store on my Sydney travels and I was very excited to hear that they have opened a franchise in Brisbane. Who doesn’t love a sample pack? Are you one of those people who buys a magazine because it comes with a “sample bag” of goodies?! I used to be, when I was interested in packaged foods, but the lure isn’t so strong now!

Anyhow, Melanie put together a fabulous box containing dried incaberries, Gold Coast honey, hazelnuts, pecans, and banana flour amongst other goodies and my challenge was to develop a recipe with all of the above!!

I got very excited about the banana flour as I haven’t used it in my cooking yet and I think some serious experimenting is in order, so I put that one aside for more attention. I have had incaberries before and had really felt ho-hum about them. The dried ones I had tried previously were very tart, with almost a chemically taste bitterness to them.

These incaberries were quite different – they were delicious. Yes, they were tart, but they were also very sweet and fragrant. So I chose the incaberries to be the star of my recipe.

I have known the incaberry as a cape gooseberry but it is also known as the Aztec berry, golden berry or pichuberry. Not to be confused with a Chinese gooseberry, it is closely related to the tomatillo and you can easily see the resemblance as it grows within a papery bladder-like calyx. The fruit resembles a miniature, yellow tomato and is full of tiny seeds. Sweet when ripe, it has a characteristic, tart flavour. As a member of the plant family Solanaceae, it is more distantly related to a large number of edible plants, including tomato, eggplant, potato and other members of the nightshades.

If you are lucky enough to find them fresh, they last for up to 2 months if the fruit is left inside the intact calyx husks. Native to high-altitude, South America, it has only recently become an important crop and is grown in China, Egypt, South Africa and since 2011, now Australia. I’m told that it is very easy to grow and will have to find some seeds to plant!

Hailed as the next “superfood” after goji (probably as their ORAC rating is higher), I am inclined to disagree. What is a superfood anyway?! Despite having good levels of antioxidants, they have only a modest vitamin/mineral value and like other dried fruit, about half their weight is carbohydrates with a lot of natural sugars.

Incaberries have a reasonable amount of protein (6.4 %), but not as high as goji which has 12% (Meat as a comparison is 20% protein). Due to the tiny seeds, they have the highest fibre content of all dried fruit at nearly 20%,  more than dried figs (14% ). Nutritionally, they are akin to cross between a dried fig and a dried apricot.

Now that the weather in Brisbane is finally heading in a cooler direction, the season for puddings will be soon upon us! Hooray for pudding!!

I have made the incaberries into a paste for this pudding recipe. Incidentally, fresh or dried, incaberries make fabulous jam. I have added just a smidgeon of honey to the paste to take the edge off the tartness, feel free to use more honey if you are inclined.

To keep these puddings gluten free, I have used hazelnut meal and buckwheat flour. Almond flour will work nicely too, but it’s a nice point of difference. If you use some silicon cupcake pans in your steamer, this recipe will make about 12 little puddings. I like to use dariole moulds which are slightly bigger so I only get about 10 puddings.

120g dried incaberries

200g water

20g butter

1 tab honey

60g buckwheat

130g hazelnuts

50g fresh ginger

70g rapadura sugar

100g butter

3 eggs

1 teas dried ginger

2 teas baking powder

50g water/juice/milk

1 tab apple cider vinegar

pinch salt

Chop the incaberries coarsely on SP 8 for 5 seconds. Add the water and cook on SP 2 for 14 minutes at 100°C.

Add the butter and honey and blend on SP 9 for 10 seconds. You will have a paste – set aside.

In a clean dry TM bowl, mill the buckwheat on SP 10 for 10 seconds. Add the hazelnuts and grind for a further 10 seconds. Set aside.

Grind the fresh ginger on SP 10 for 10 seconds. Add the sugar, butter and blend on SP 6 for 10 seconds. Add the remaining ingredients, including the nuts and buckwheat and mix on SP 5 for 20 seconds until well combined and smooth.

In well greased ramekins, place a teaspoon of inca paste and then top with some pudding batter. Seal each one with foil. This recipe makes 10 small steamed puddings.

Place 700g water in the TM and set the varoma to steam for 27 minutes on VAROMA temp, SP 3.

Serve the puddings with ice-cream or cream.

Carrot & Kalamata Salad

April 18, 2015

Great with a BBQ!

I’m not sure how, but we seemed to have a profusion of carrots recently. We had family staying who were more than happy to stock the fridge and carrots seemed to be the vegetable of choice! Funnily enough, I don’t seem to eat carrots very often, despite loving them as a kid and still enjoying them now. I think that the bulk of my vegetable intake tends to be green and the colours are added as a garnish.

But coloured vegetables are very good for you! Up until recently, carrots were reputed to be the ultimate health food. Alongside celery, they were considered “rabbit food” for humans!

It is believed that the carrot was first cultivated around Afghanistan, thousands of years ago, as a small forked purple or yellow root with a woody and bitter flavour, resembling nothing of the carrot we know today. Purple, red, yellow and white carrots were cultivated long before the appearance of the now popular orange carrot, which was developed and stabilized by Dutch growers in the 16th and 17th centuries. Hence, “Dutch carrots”. Like apples, the modern day carrot has been bred to be sweet, crunchy and aromatic, although the heirloom purple & yellow varieties are considered pretty trendy nowadays.

Carrots are an excellent source of vitamin A, providing over 200% of the average adult’s needs for the day. They also provide vitamin C, calcium & iron. It is the antioxidant beta-carotene that gives carrots their bright orange colour, which is absorbed in the intestine and converted into vitamin A during digestion. The antioxidants in purple & yellow carrots are anthocyanin, lycopene and lutein. These antioxidants are evident in reducing cancer risks by reducing free radicals in the body.

Do they really help you see better at night? Well, only if you have a vitamin A deficiency as a vitamin A deficiency causes part of the eye’s photo-receptors to deteriorate, damaging normal vision. The rumour was started during World War 2 by the British Royal Air Force to conceal their new radar system from the Germans. It’s interesting how health science was manipulated even back then!

The distinction between this salad and others is that the carrots are cooked. Like tomatoes and spinach, cooked carrots supply more antioxidants, such as carotenoids and ferulic acid, to the body than they do when raw. At least, that is, if they’re boiled or steamed. Frying or baking is not so optimum for bioavailability.

I like to serve this salad at room temperature to maximise the flavours. Use medium size carrots and peel them if the skins are tough. I have made this recipe with turnips, potato and celeriac too. Mix them up! The cumin is optional – my husband HATES cumin so I have to sprinkle mine on afterwards!

450g carrots, peeled and cut into batons

500ml water

1 handful flat leafed parsley

1 handful coriander leaves

2 tabs olive oil

1 tab red wine vinegar or lemon juice

1 teas ground coriander

1 clove garlic

a big pinch dried chilli flakes, or to taste

1 tab honey

1 tea cumin seeds

20 kalamata olives, pitted & chopped

Toast the cumin seeds on SP 2, VAROMA temp for 3 minutes. Set aside.

Place the carrots in the steamer basket and steam over 500g water for 16 minutes on VAROMA temp, SP 4. The carrots should be bright and tender. Drain and set aside.

In the TM, chop the garlic & herbs with the salt for 10 seconds. Add the remaining dressing ingredients and mix on SP 6 for 10 seconds. Toss the hot carrots with the dressing and allow to cool.

On cooling the carrots will absorb the dressing flavours. Add the olives & cumin seeds and taste for seasoning before serving. I like to serve this at a BBQ or on a mezze plate.

Got lots of carrots? Try my other carrot recipes with a difference:

Carrot Soup

Carrot Pudding

Carrot Tortilla Wraps

© Copyright. These recipes are my own. These photos are my own. These stories are my own. You are welcome to share my link to my site for the recipe. However, please refrain from republishing any of my content in its entirety. clevercook – Sarah Wong

To buckwheat or not to buckwheat? With chocolate chips!

April 16, 2015


So is buckwheat paleo or not paleo?


Historically speaking, buckwheat certainly isn’t paleo. It is still a crop which would have needed maintenance and harvesting. Despite it being classified as a seed and not a grain, it comes under the banner of pseudocereal.

The buckwheat plant is related to sorrel and rhubarb and the triangular seeds, called groats, are milled into flour or used whole in cereals. While most seeds have a high fat and protein content, buckwheat is low in fat and have a high starch content, despite being lower than actual grains. Buckwheat’s glycemic index is 54, which is still fairly high.

But as a lower starch, gluten free alternative to most grains, I like to use it in my cooking from time to time. I put it in the same category as white rice, it is not as harmful as grains that contain gluten, it doesn’t have a lot of anti-nutrients, but also doesn’t have many good nutrients. Whether or not it fits into the primal diet, it fits into my paleo template.

The name ‘buckwheat’ or ‘beech wheat’ comes from its triangular seeds, which resemble the much larger seeds of the beech nut from the beech tree, and the fact that it is used like wheat.

An ancient crop, originating in Asia, buckwheat cultivation declined sharply in the 20th century with the adoption of nitrogen fertilizer that increased the productivity of corn & wheat. Hmmmm, that’s interesting, isn’t it?! However due to the “explosion in popularity of so-called ancient grains” buckwheat has made a resurgence on our shelves.

You can buy the seeds with or without the dark brown hull. The flour is made from the seed without the hull whilst the unhulled seeds are used mainly whole in porridges and stews. It is eaten all over the world from Russia to Asia to Europe and America.

I like using buckwheat flour in baking as it is a good source of protein and iron and imparts an earthy flavour. To aid digestion and reduce the starch, I always sprout my buckwheat by soaking for only an hour or so and then leaving to germinate overnight before drying in my dehydrator. This makes the buckwheat very tender to eat raw and is a good addition to granola and to add crunch to salads and vegetable dishes.

In my constant quest for the perfect crunchy chocolate chip biscuit, I have discovered that buckwheat flour works the best. It works better than quinoa or almonds and although not theoretically paleo, buckwheat is probably closer to being primal than dark chocolate!!

120g buckwheat

1 teas linseeds

1/2 teas baking powder

100g rapadura sugar

100g  butter

1 tab vanilla extract

1 egg

70g pecans, chopped

120g dark chocolate chips

20g dried cranberries or sour cherries, chopped

Mill the buckwheat and linseeds on SP 9 for 30 seconds. Add the baking powder and set aside.

Mill the sugar for 10 seconds on SP 10 add the butter and mix on SP 6 for 10 seconds. Insert the butterfly and whip on SP 4 for 1 minute. Scrape down and add the egg and vanilla and continue to whip on SP 4 for another 30 seconds. Remove the butterfly and add the nuts, chocolate & dried fruit, and then the flour on top, and mix on SP 3 REVERSE for about 10 seconds or until just combined.

Place tablespoon sized balls onto a lined baking tray and bake for about 12 minutes at 170°C. They will spread quite a bit and brown at the edges. To make them very crisp, leave them in the oven to cool down.

For my other chocolate chip biscuit recipes, try here.


Chocolate Whisky Fudge Cake with Caramel Sauce*

April 11, 2015

* I couldn't think of a shorter name!

* I couldn’t think of a shorter name!

I’m wondering if you are all sick of chocolate after the Easter holiday… Is there such an impediment?

With Easter and several birthdays at the beginning of the year, it is a busy time – and requests for the family favourite birthday cake, come thick and fast!

Naturally, it’s a chocolate cake! A moist and fudgey, rich & decadent chocolate cake! It makes a terrific do-ahead dessert as both the cake and the caramel sauce freeze really well.

This tipsy recipe was easy to paleofy, except for the alcohol, of course – but birthdays only come but once a year! As a teetotaller, I’m amazed that I am not affronted by the booziness of it -but I love it and it works well with both whisky or rum, but I like whisky best. Strange, because I can’t stand whisky in any other way; perhaps due to an adolescent misadventure! Substitute red wine or a Sauternes if you prefer.

The sweetness of this recipe depends on the chocolate and alcohol that you use. If you use a 70% dark chocolate, you will need the full 180 grams of sugar. If you use a less bitter chocolate, you may want to cut down the sugar to 150 grams. The same goes for the alcohol. If you use a Frangelico or sweeter liqueur, you could probably cut down the sugar too. But try the recipe as it is and see what you think.

Incidentally, using hazelnut flour instead of almond meal and Frangelico instead of whisky makes a really yummy “nutella” version.

I like to serve it gently warmed with a warm caramel sauce and plenty of whipped cream or vanilla ice-cream. But it is equally good served cold with a ganache.

You need to make this cake – it will become a family favourite of yours as well ♥

160g butter

220g dark chocolate + 50g dark chocolate, chopped extra

180g rapadura or coconut sugar

70g whisky

4 eggs

180g almond meal

30g tapioca flour

3 teas baking powder

1 teas salt

1/4 teas cinnamon (because I can’t resist!)

Chop the 220g chocolate on SP 8 for 10 seconds. Add the butter and sugar and melt together on SP 4 at 50°C for 2 minutes. Add the whisky and continue to cook at 50°C for another 30 seconds, SP 5.

Add the eggs, almonds, tapioca flour, baking powder, salt & cinnamon and blend on SP 5 for 10 seconds, until well combined. Stir through the last 50g chopped chocolate and pour into a greased, lined 22cm springform tin.

Bake in 170°C oven for 45 – 50 minutes. It will have a slight wobble and will firm up on cooling. Serve with caramel sauce and cream.

Caramel Sauce

100g dates soaked in 100g hot water for 10 minutes
60g butter
30g nut butter (I used almond)
50g rapadura sugar
1 teas vanilla extract
1 big pinch salt
100g – 150g cream or coconut milk

In the TM, add all of the ingredients, including the soaking water and blitz on SP 9 for 1 minute. Scrape down and cook for 5 minutes at 90°C on SP 5.  Taste for sweetness and consistency and add some stevia and/or water if desired.



Coriander: Love it or Hate it?

April 1, 2015

pestocoApart from their flavour, most herbs are extremely nutrient rich but we don’t eat enough of them to get the full benefit. We tend to use them as a garnish or a flavouring agent rather than vegetables in their own right.

Coriander is one of the most nutrient dense herbs on the ANDI Scale, which stands for Aggregate Nutrient Density Index. Created by Dr. Joel Fuhrman, ANDI ranks a food’s nutrient density on a scale from 1 to 1000. The ANDI scores are calculated by evaluating an extensive range of micronutrients, including vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and antioxidant capacities, and by dividing the nutrient level of a food by its caloric content.

For context, kale scores 1000 while lemonade scores 1.

The top 5 herbs on the scale are:

1. Basil – 518

2. Coriander – 481

3. Spearmint – 457

4. Tarragon – 426

5. Oregano – 426

Interestingly, parsley comes in at number 7; and at number 3, spearmint beats peppermint which just scrapes in at number 10. So the Italians have it right, making pesto a culinary health food by using basil and olive oil and pinenuts, all yummy and nutritious whole foods!

But have you ever made pesto using another herb? Pesto works beautifully with rocket or tarragon or even oregano, but my most favourite pesto is made from coriander.

Coriander can have a polarising effect on people; you either love it or hate it.  Different people may perceive the taste of coriander leaves differently. Those who like it – love its fragrant  fresh flavour – while those who dislike it – HATE it – and have a powerful aversion to its taste and smell. Research strongly suggests a genetic component to the preference. There are two genetic variants linked to perception of coriander, the most common of which is a gene involved in sensing smells. The gene, OR6A2, encodes a receptor that is highly sensitive to aldehyde chemicals. Most of the pungency in coriander is formed by these aldehydes which explains why carriers of this gene are sensitive to the aldehydes and can’t tolerate the flavour. Similar aldehyde molecules are found in soap and bugs, which explains the connection!

Also known as cilantro or Chinese parsley, all parts of the coriander plant are edible, including the fresh leaves, roots and the dried seeds. It is used widely in Indian, Thai and Mexican cuisine, although, having done multiple cooking classes in Thailand, I found it rarely used, the Thais favouring a distant cousin, sawtooth herb or stinkweed instead.

Coriander leaves spoil quickly and heat diminishes the flavour as does drying or freezing. The roots have a slightly different, more intense flavour and succulent clean roots are treated like gold in our house – they are hard to find! Dried coriander seeds have a lemony citrus flavour when crushed, and can be described as warm, nutty, spicy, and orange-flavoured. I use them in Indian cooking, chutneys and baking.

Fresh coriander is full of healing phytonutrients and anti-oxidants. Its leaves and seeds contain various essential oils that makes this herb useful in traditional medicines. It is antiseptic, analgesic, aphrodisiac, helps with digestion, fungicidal and a natural stimulant.

The leaves are a very good source of vitamins A, C & K and provide a high amount of calcium and potassium. The seeds provide significant amounts of dietary fibre, calcium, selenium, iron, magnesium and manganese.

When juiced and consumed regularly, coriander can help stimulate the secretion of insulin, thereby lowering blood sugar. Studies also show that coriander can improve cholesterol profiles by reducing LDL and increasing HDL levels. I have also read that coriander is one of the very few herbs that is used as a heavy metal detox agent, to detoxify mercury, aluminium and lead among others. Hmmm… interesting.. all the more reason to eat coriander!

I have used macadamias and some Thai flavours for interest, and whilst this recipe is dairy free, substitute the nutritional yeast for a little parmesan if you prefer. The yeast flakes add the umami that parmesan would normally offer. I like to keep this pesto quite chunky if I am serving it as a dip. Otherwise I make it a bit smoother if I am tossing it through zucchini noodles or pasta. It is great added to coleslaw or diluted in a salad dressing for an Asian bent.

1 big bunch coriander
1 strip lemon zest
1 clove garlic
140g macadamias or brazil nuts
½ green chilli (or more to taste)
1 tab nutritional yeast
Juice of ½ lemon
50g macadamia oil
Big pinch sugar
1 tab fish sauce to taste

Grind the lemon rind on SP 9 for 10 seconds. Add the rest of the ingredients and blitz on SP 6 for 10 – 15 seconds (or until desired consistency) Check for seasoning and serve.

Schhhmmokin’ !

March 28, 2015

Homemade chilli sauce

Homemade chilli sauce

My late step-son, Andrew was a chilli freak! He grew all sorts of chillies and used them copiously in his cooking – perhaps too generously!! Like his coffee, he liked his chilli STRONG. We would have exhaustive discussions about the merits of thickening agents, guar or agar in sauce,  and using acid to preserve his chillies. One year he gave his younger step-brother a bottle of home-made chilli sauce that was so hot it was lethal – and I mean so lethal that it sat at the back of the fridge forever,  as everyone was too afraid to use it!

Chilli is a healthful addition to your diet. It contains an alkaloid compound, capsaicin, which is a strong, spicy & pungent flavour. Early laboratory studies on experimental mammals suggest that capsaicin has anti-bacterial, anti-carcinogenic, analgesic and anti-diabetic properties. It also found to reduce LDL cholesterol levels in obese individuals. Capsaicin does not lose its pungency through the digestive tract as those, who have experienced its path both on entry and exit will be sure to attest! Despite its health giving properties, be careful and avoid it if you suffer stomach or bowel ulcers, heartburn, haemorrhoids, or a sore throat. You will make yourself worse AND miserable! Read why you should eat more chilli here.

Here is a great chilli sauce recipe that you can adjust to your tolerance of spicy hot! Many bottled chilli sauces have a large addition of vinegar or acid to help prolong the shelf life of the sauce. Home-made obviously won’t last as long but it will taste better.

If you make sure that your jars are well sterilised, the sauce will last a good 12 months in the pantry and longer in the fridge. To sterilise your jars in your Varoma  see here. Make sure that you do the lids as well and that they drip dry.

Back to chilli – I use this in everything from marinades to using as an accompaniment for rice and dumplings. The addition of turmeric gives it a healthy edge with its natural anti-inflammatory and powerful antioxidant properties. Read about how good turmeric is for you here.

You can adjust the “heat” of this recipe a couple of ways.  First of all, taste the chillies! Small birdseye chillies are extremely hot. Larger red chillies can be hot or quite mild. You can de-seed and de-pith the chillies to make them taste milder. Most of the heat is in the pith membrane and seeds of the chilli. I find this a bit fiddly (and  a WHS risk!) so instead I substitute some of the chillies with red capsicum.

Andrew, you left this world too soon – this post is dedicated to you. x

250g red chillies – a mix of birdseye & long red
150g red capsicum, chopped
4 cloves garlic
1 knob of fresh turmeric
150g fresh tomato
1 tab fish sauce
1 teas salt
1 tab apple cider vinegar
2 tabs rapadura sugar
Remove the stem from the chillies and add all ingredients to the TM bowl and chop for 10 seconds, SP 7.
Cook for 20 minutes on SP 4, 100ºC with the MC off. Give it a blitz on SP 9 for 10 seconds with the MC on!! If you would like it thicker, cook for a further 5 minutes. Bottle & seal while hot.
Try using green chillies & green capsicum for a green chilli sauce. I think a handful of coriander works in this too.





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