Cook this: beef bourguignon

Winter is here. Properly. It was a long hot summer, and in the current COVID-19 haze, I just want to sit at home in my pjs and dressing gown, and eat warm comfort food. Maybe you do, too.

I wanted to share this beef bourguignon recipe from my cookbook, because it’s one of the best winter comfort foods I know – I first ate real beef bourguignon in a little bistro in Paris back in 2013, and it was the first time I understood why people make such a fuss over French food. It was magnificent.

My version isn’t quite the food of the gods they’ll whip up for you if you ever have the pleasure of dining at Le P’Tit Troquet, but it’s easy enough to make for yourself. And make sure you make a huge pot of it, because left overs.

Ingredients:
• 500g chuck steak
• olive oil
• 2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
• 1 onion, roughly diced
• 3 cups red wine
• 2 cups vegetable stock
• 2 large carrots, peeled & sliced
• 500g button mushrooms
• 3 celery stalks, chopped
• 5 bay leaves
• 2 tsp dried thyme leaves
• ¼ cup roughly chopped fresh parsley
• mashed potato, to serve

Method:
1. Roughly dice the steak and season with salt and pepper.

2. Heat a large pot over high heat and add enough oil to coat it. Cook the steak (in batches if necessary) for a few minutes, until browned.

3. Add the garlic and onion, and stir for a minute or two, until fragrant.

4. Next, pour in the wine and stock, bringing the pot to a boil.

5. Reduce to a simmer and add the vegetables, bay leaves and thyme. Stir through, place the lid on the pot and simmer for 3 – 4 hours (until it reduces and thickens a little), stirring occasionally.

6. Serve with mashed potato and a little fresh parsley sprinkled over the top.

 

And if you’d like to see more recipes inspired by my travels and the wonderful people who’ve fed me around the world, you can get a copy of my book from $9.99 right here!

Bone broth: What it is, how to make it & why I’m trying it

So, I’ve been drinking a cup of bone broth every afternoon for the past 17 days. And as odd as I thought the prescription of it was for my gut problems, my time spent investigating it on Google has informed me that its actually becomming a bit of a “thing” right now. There are dozens of articles and posts already swimming around out there from multiple perspectives/health issues, so I’m going to add my experiences and health perspective to the pile, too.

 

WHAT IS BONE BROTH?
Its exactly what it sounds like, actually. A broth made by simmering marrow bones in water for several hours (like, 12 hours minimum). While the health hipsters have only just climbed on board the broth train, my Italian family (and many more like mine) have been doing this for generations. Having mostly grown up in small towns and provinces around Italy, and not being particularly wealthy, my ancestors had to learn to use every single part of the animals they had to slaughter in order to feed their families, and that included the bones. As kids, we’d always get a bowl on mum or Nonna’s brodo when we were sick – the old-school, uncool, billion year old, Italian, original bone broth.

WHY IS IT A THING NOW?
Let me back track a little so I can answer that question properly…

I’ve been plagued with gut issues for around 5 years now, bounced back and forth from doctor to specialist and back again, trying everything that’s been suggested and prescribed to absolutely no avail.

A few weeks ago, at my wit’s end, I went to another appointment, this time with a naturopath specialising in gut issues. All I could tell her for certain was that in recent hospital tests, I had tested negative to coeliac and SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth), extremely positive to fructose malabsorption, and had a history of severe lactose intolerence as a baby.

Among several supplements that I was to try, I was also prescribed a modified GAPS diet for a few weeks, which for me, includes the following guidelines:
– no sugar or processed foods
– no gluten
– no grains
– no cow’s milk products
– bone broth, kefir and sauerkraut daily

As the name suggests (Gut And Psychology Syndrome), it’s now been well documented that there is a strong link between the gut and the mind, with a rather high incidence of people suffering from depression and anxiety also suffering from gut disorders. Exhibit A, me.

So back to the original question – why bone broth? It’s believed that the gelatin in the broth (that comes from those long simmered bones, particularly knuckles and joints) can be incredibly helpful in healing dodgy gut lining. It’ also said to help boost the immune system, which is great for those of us with gut issues, as our immune systems are generally not in prime condition. While there are certainly more studies needed to verify these claims of good, there are certainly no harmful side effects to drinking a cup of broth each day, and with the staggering numbers of people who swear by it and nothing to lose, I figured I’d give it a go – couldn’t make my current game of Russian Roulette every time I sit down to eat any worse!

HOW DO YOU MAKE IT?
How long is a piece of string? My investigations led me to a ridiculous amount of recipes, all with slight differences in ingredients and method, and all claiming to be the right way of doing it. I call bullshit and came up with my own recipe, combiming the plethora of online advice I found, what I remember from my childhood, and plain common sense. I will say though that this is a long process, with the broth simmering for at least 12 hours, soma slow cooker would be much easier and safer than a pot on the stove!

I did two versions, one beef and one chicken. I suspect the beef broth (made with marrow bones that the butcher sliced into smalled pieces for me and a few ox tail bones) was closer to what it’s “meant” to be like; once cooled, it formed a gelatinous mass with a nice layer of fat hardened over the top. The chicken one (made using the carcass of a roast chicken we ate for dinner) was a lot thinner – no jelly, no fat layer. They both tasted pretty good on their own, to my surprise (and relief), and would make great soup bases.

Beef Broth Recipe
– 1.5kg beef marrow bones, cut up by the butcher so the inner parts are exposed. Knuckles and joints are great, so is cartilage and fat and meat; use it all!
– 2 carrots
– 3 celery stalks
– 5 brown mushrooms
– 8 bay leaves
– 1.5 tsp turmeric
– 1.5 tbsp apple cider vinegar

1. Heat the oven to 220°C. Place the bones on an oven tray, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast for 30 minutes.

2. Take the bones out of the oven and place them into your slow cooker, along with all the other ingredients. Fill the slow cooker with enough water to cover the bones, set on low heat, put the lid on, and ignore it for 12 – 18 hours. I’ve been putting mine on before dinner and turning it off the next morning at breakfast time.

3. After it’s cooled a bit, I ladel my broth through a sieve into empty peanut butter jars to freeze. Some websites recommend glass jars, but I’m not willing to risk them in the freezer!

HOW DO YOU EAT/DRINK IT?
I’ve been taking my jars out of the freezer and putting them in the fridge to defrost slowly over 24-36 hours. Then, I take it to work in a travel mug, sprinkle a little salt in it, heat it up around mid afternoon in the microwave for 2 minutes or so, and sip it down!

It can be used as a great soup base if you’d rather incorporate it into a meal, and a lot of people also prefer to have it in the morning with their breakfast, but I like it in the afternoon when I tend to get the nibbles.

 

SO, HAS IT MADE ANY DIFFERENCE?
Honestly,  it’s hard to tell… one thing I have noticed though is that while I’ve been experiencing severe stomach pain and bloating most afternoons for a very long time now, I actually haven’t really had that while I’ve been on this GAPS diet, which has been wonderful! Whether it’s the bone broth though, or the probiotics, kefir, sauerkraut, gut relief supplement, foul tasting herbal elixir, or a combination of the lot, I don’t know. But I figure I’ll stick with it a little while longer!

Cook this: Olive bread

Husband never used to like olives. Until he tried them again a while ago. And he discovered he actually did like them, a lot. He noticed a handsome looking olive loaf last weekend at a bakery we stopped for tea and coffee at, and requested I make a loaf; far be it for me to say no, so I threw together a quick easy loaf, and it turned out pretty darn good. Pretty easy to make, as well…

Ingredients (makes 1 loaf):
– 500g plain flour
– ½ tbsp salt
– ½ tbsp dried yeast
– 1 heaped tbsp dried rosemary
– 475ml warm water
– 1 cup pitted olives of choice – I used kalamata

 

Method:
1. Combine the flour, salt, yeast and rosemary in a large mixing bowl, then stir in the warm water. Once combined, mix in the olives.

2. Cover the mixing bowl in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

3. When you’re ready to bake, take the dough out of the fridge and bring it to room temperature.

4. Preheat the oven to 220ºC, grease a loaf tin and place the dough into it (alternatively, line an oven tray with baking paper and shape the dough into a free form loaf). Bake for 45 – 50 minutes, or until baked through; the easiest way to test it while it’s still in the tin is to tap the bread – if it has a hollow sound, it should be baked through.


I’d highly recommend serving it fresh out of the oven, topped with prosciutto and fior di latte cheese. Amazing!

Cook this: Eggplant, tomato & beef stew 

One of my best friends told me about this recipe she found on taste.com.au last week, and it sounded amazing for the cold weather hitting Melbourne at the moment. I also love eggplant and slow cooked chuck steak, but haven’t used them together before, so I was pretty keen on trying this out.

I’ve been bulk cooking a lot lately, too; making big meals of 8 – 10 servings so I can freeze extras for those mid-week dinners I can’t be bothered cooking. This is a perfect recipe for bulk cooking – it reheats really well, and you can add in whatever grains you want when you’re ready to eat, be it pasta, cous cous, rice, bread, whatever! My version is also very vegetable heavy, because they’re good for you, especially in winter when our immune systems are being put to the test and we’re prone to rely more on heavy meals and not get enough healthy stuff in.


Ingredients (10 serves):
– 1kg beef chuck steak, cut into bite-sized cubes
– a little plain flour, to coat steak in
– 2 garlic cloves, crushed – of, if you’re fructose intolerant like me, use garlic infused oil
– 2 tbsp dried oregano
– 2 tsp ground ginger
– 1 tbsp tumeric
– 1 tbsp sweet paprika
– 1 tbsp smoked paprika
– 1 tbsp cumin
– 2 tsp mustard seeds
– 10 tomatoes, roughly chopped (preferably vine-ripened)
– 3 cup vegetable stock
– 2 mild red chillis, roughly chopped
– 4 large eggplants, diced
– 3 large zucchinis, halved lengthways, then chopped

 

Method:
1. Add the steak and flour into a large mixing bowl and toss to lightly coat.

2. Heat a large saucepan and add a little olive oil (plain or garlic infused), enough to just coat the pan. Add the beef and cook, stirring, for 5 – 10 minutes, until browned.

3. Stir in the oregano, ginger, turmeric, paprika, cumin, mustard seeds, and a little salt and pepper.

4. Next, add the tomatoes, vegetable stock and chilli, stir to combine, and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, and cook, covered, for an hour. After an hour, remove the lid and simmer for another 20 – 30 minutes while it thickens up, until you’re happy with it.

5. While the stew cooks, heat up the oven to 200°C and lightly spray two large baking trays with cooking oil. Add the vegetables between the two trays, spray again with a little more oil and sprinkle a little salt and pepper over them. Bake in the oven for 25 – 30 minutes, until cooked through.

6. Once the stew is done, stir the vegetables through and serve with grains of choice – I like cous cous, but a good piece of crusty bread to dip is a great option, too!

A crash course in FODMAPs & cook this: poached egg in polenta & sugo

So, it’s been a frustrating year thus far, trying to work out what’s causing my stomach to hate me so much. After recently undergoing some blood tests and hydrogen breath tests, turns out we can confirm now that I’m not coeliac (although large amounts of gluten don’t really agree with me),  but I am lactose and fructose intolerant, which is apparently why my stomach has been hating me so much. Great. So what does that mean? A super exciting low FODMAP diet for the next few weeks, after which we try to reintroduce some of the stuff that’s currently a no-go. I won’t bore you with the details (Google “low FODMAPs” for more detailed info), but basically FODMAPs are molecules found in a lot of common foods we eat that aren’t digested properly, and then cause nasty digestive issues.  FODMAP stands for:
Fermentable
Oligosaccharides (eg. Fructans and Galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS))
Disaccharides (eg. Lactose)
Monosaccharides (eg. excess Fructose)
and
Polyols (eg. Sorbitol, Mannitol, Maltitol, Xylitol and Isomalt)

Great, but what the hell does that mean in real life? Basically, foods containing those guys are not my friend for the next few weeks. Not a whole lot of Ben & Jerry’s shenanigans over the next few weeks, then…

 

The OK to eat list includes:
GRAINS – gluten free everything – bread, pasta, flour etc, quinoa, rice, rice noodles, tapioca, corn thins, popcorn (yay!), oats (double yay!), polenta
VEGGIES – among a few others, red capsicums, bok choy, carrots, cucumber, zucchini, eggplant, ginger, tomato, lettuce, olives, parsnip, potato, spinach, the green tops of spring onions only
FRUITS – kiwi fruit, strawberries, oranges, pineapples, blueberries, rockmelon, limes, lemons, mandarins, passionfruit
DAIRY – lactose free milk and yoghurt (Liddell’s for me!), coconut milk, feta, mozzarella, Swiss, parmesan, brie, camembert cheeses
PROTEIN – chicken, beef, lamb, pork, fish, eggs, unprocessed meats
NUTS/SEEDS – anything but cashews and almonds really, in very small amounts (10 nuts or less)
OTHER – pure maple syrup, pure sugar/sucrose, dark chocolate (Lindt 85% for me!), raw cacao, salt/pepper, most oils, peanut butter, unsweetened coconut, herbs like cumin, paprika, coriander, basil, thyme, chives, parsley, rosemary, Nuttelex spread, small amounts of soy, fish and oyster sauces, some mayo/mustard (providing they don’t have any onion or garlic in the ingredients), tea (THANK GOD!), Massell stock cubes made without onion/garlic (SO happy I found these!)

Basically, not a heap of sauces/condiments/packaged stuff where the nasties are hidden – more plainly prepared stuff like grilled prawns (minus the garlic butter, unfortunately!), rice and simple steamed veggies. I’d be way happier in Thailand or Vietnam for the next 8 weeks, actually…

 

 

The not OK to eat list includes:
GRAINS – Gluten – regular bread and pasta, cous cous, barley, and pretty much all pre-packaged cakes, biscuits, crackers, pastries etc.
VEGGIES – garlic, onion, broccoli, cabbage, snow peas, mushrooms, cauliflower, celery, fennel, leeks
FRUITS – apples, pears, stone fruits, tinned fruit, concentrated fruit juices, dried fruits
DAIRY – cow’s milk, lactose products, buttermilk, ice cream, custard, cream, cream cheese, cottage cheese, ricotta, sour cream
PROTEIN – sausages/processed meats (often have fructose products such as honey used in them, so check the ingredients!), all beans (kidney beans, black beans, etc), chickpeas, lentils, soy beans
NUTS/SEEDS – cashews, pistachios, large amounts of any other nuts/seeds
OTHER – honey, milk chocolate, molasses, regular stock cubes, relish, cocoa powder, teas that have fennel, dandelion or chamomile in them,  and anything that includes fructose, isomalt, high fructose corn syrup, maltitol, mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol and sugar free drinks and sweets that have polyols (ingredients typically ending in -yol) in them…. how the hell I’m going to study nutritional labels for all this crap is beyond me…

 

Grey areas:
– Soy and almond milk are the ones that’ll impact me most – almonds and soy beans are technically on the NOT OK section for the low FODMAP diet, but I’m figuring a little soy milk in my tea will still be better that regular milk! Otherwise I’ll stick with Zymil milk I think. Tofu is another one on the maybe/maybe not list, for the same reason.
– In terms of veggies, broccoli, avocado, sweet potato, pumpkin and corn – small serves of a half cup or less are thought to maybe be ok, but no conclusive evidence is available at this stage either way.

Without going into too much detail, it’s not a life sentence; generally after 8 – 10 weeks of this, you’re encouraged to start re-introducing some of those FODMAPs, group by group, to see if you can include them into your diet again 🙂 What that means here is that you won’t be seeing a heap of my standard delicious naughty food on here (I’m not saying I may not have the occasional slip up – I’ll do my best but I am only human!), but instead some more gluten free, lactose free, fructose free, FODMAP friendly options for a few weeks! And I have no intention of eating chicken and rice every day for the next 2 months, so we’ll see how creative this can get!

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ANYWAY, enough of the education component of this post (I didn’t want to get into it too much, but I also didn’t want you guys to be wondering why there wasn’t a new burger every week on here!), let’s get to the food – gooey, runny yolked poached egg in a polenta and chunky sugo nest. Winter time comfort food. The perfect meal to end the week. Which I really, really needed last night after only 3 hours sleep Saturday night.

The polenta and sugo were pretty simple – I make them both pretty often. But, surprisingly, I’ve never done poached eggs before! How is this possible?! I have no idea! It really only just hit me when I vetoed frying the egg and couldn’t be bothered waiting long enough to do the baked egg thing. I figured it couldn’t hurt to give it a try,  and happily, it was no where near as difficult or scary as I thought it’d be!

So here’s your gluten free, lactose free, fructose free, low FODMAP, tummy friendly, blah blah blah winter warmer dinner of poached egg/s, polenta and sugo…

Ingredients (for 2):
Sugo:
– garlic infused olive oil
– 2 rashers bacon, diced
– 1 red capsicum, diced
– 2 heaped tbsp pitted, sliced black olives
– 3 ripe tomatoes, diced
– 1 cup plain tomato pasta sauce
– salt, pepper and dried basil
– 2 handfuls baby spinach leaves, torn

Polenta:
– 2 cups water with a sprinkle of salt
– ½ cup polenta/fine semolina
– 1 tbsp Nuttelex spread (or just regular butter if you’re not low FODMAPing)
– 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Eggs:
– as many eggs as you want
– pot of water
– 1 tbsp vinegar

Method:
1. Get the sugo started first – heat the oil in a pan over medium heat and add the bacon. Once the bacon starts to get a little colour, add the capsicum and cook over high heat until the capsicum starts to soften.

2. Next, add the olives, tomato, pasta sauce and as much salt, pepper and basil as you like to the pot. Simmer for 10 minutes, until the sauce thickens. Then mix the spinach through until it wilts and shrinks. You can set the sauce aside and re-heat it if need be just before serving.

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3. Get your pot of water and the little bit of vinegar for the eggs on the boil next – it needs to be a roaring, rolling boil before you even think about throwing those eggs in there. Crack as many eggs as you want into separate, small dishes and set them aside.

4. Finally, get the pot of water for the polenta on medium heat – bring it almost to the boil, turn the heat down and slowly add the polenta, whisking as you add it (if you dump it all in at once, it’ll be a lumpy mess). Once all the polenta is in, keep the heat on low and whisk continuously for 5-10 minutes, until you’re happy with the consistency – if it’s too thin for you, keep whisking over low heat to thicken it up, and if it’s too thick add a little more water. Add in the butter and cheese, whisk through, and again leave it to the side to re-heat if you need to before serving.

5. Now, those eggs. Water’s on a strong rolling boil, give it a stir with a spoon to create a little whirlpool in the centre, and slowly and carefully slide in the first egg. Set a timer for 2 minutes, try not to panic like I did at the messy trail of egg white that’s probably floating around in there (I don’t know how, but egg magic will bring it all together in the end), and remove your egg with a slotted spoon just before the timer hits the 2 minute mark – rest it on a paper towel-covered plate until you’re ready for it. Keep poaching your remaining eggs, one at a time.

6. Assembly is easy – polenta into the bowl first, lots of sugo next, and plonk your egg on top. Hopefully you saved a little parmesan to top it with, too! Enjoy 🙂

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And if there are any more low FODMAPers out there reading this, I’d LOVE to hear from you guys – let me know how you’re going with it all, any favourite dishes you have, any helpful tips and what not!