Pan-Fried Smoked Haddock with Root Veg Chips and a Carrot Timbale

I always try to cook healthy and nutritious food for my brother and I while we’re at uni. I think we eat pretty well for students! We’re both trying to follow a paleo diet, which involves no wheat, sugar, grains, dairy, legumes, alcohol or potatoes. I did follow this diet strictly for 30 days, and felt no difference to my energy levels, but I think that was because I didn’t eat much wheat or sugar to begin with! I did eat grains, dairy, potatoes and legumes, however I personally feel as though these don’t damage your health if they’re eaten occasionally, and they certainly don’t seem to affect my energy levels.

It is incredibly difficult to stick to strict paleo, because there isn’t a restaurant out there with a perfectly paleo dish! Even if you could find a dish without a grain, legume or potato, it would probably be cooked in some sort of vegetable or sunflower oil. I think the closest I’ve found is Nando’s, because they do grilled chicken with sweet potato side dishes; perhaps that’s why all the Crossfit lot eat there often! So we do use paleo as a diet guideline, although we’re not 100% strict; we do like peanut butter every so often, and I have milk in my tea. Occasionally we have regular white potatoes or rice, but always limit sugar and wheat (the biggest culprits, in my opinion, of inflammation and disease these days!). However, if I was to go to a restaurant, a friend’s house, or my parent’s place, and found that my mum had made one of her famous carrot cakes or a lasagne or spaghetti carbonara was on the menu, I certainly wouldn’t turn it down!

Most people we speak to think it’s quite a radical diet, but to be honest, it really isn’t. I was surprised when my dad said to us “don’t you guys find it boring?” On the contrary! There are so many different recipes and ingredients to try! We use a lot of coconut, butter, olive oils, almonds, etc. More than we used to. Sometimes it can be a little more pricier than eating a large plate of pasta or rice (as they’re quite cheap), but fresh veg isn’t that expensive, and neither are various meats if you buy them in bulk. Remember: the freezer is your friend! Not only that, but how often do you expect to each in a day? One large and a smaller meal would be enough if you really were that tight on money!

Also, a lot of people seem to think that paleo is for weight loss. Sure, it’s great for weight loss, but if you’re on paleo JUST to lose weight, I suggest you reevaluate what you want to get from it. Weight loss is a great side-product of the diet, but the ultimate aim of eating paleo is for optimal health. This is why various paleo advocate sites suggest being strict for at least 30 days to clean your system out, and then slowly introduce various things, such as dairy, back into your diet to determine if it makes you feel sluggish or affects your adversely. I like to think that I know why I stick to paleo. I’ve read several books on the subject and feel fairly well-versed in the area. I like to know why I’m not eating wheat and sugar, and what effect that has on the body, rather than just following guidelines in a book because an expert said so.

For example, eating refined wheat and sugar causes a spike in blood-glucose levels, and as most people, especially in the Western world, eat mostly these things at every meal; bread, desserts, pasta, biscuits as snacks, and this causes elevated blood-sugar levels, which causes chronic inflammation. Sure, our body is pretty good at dealing with inflammation, but when it’s chronic, that’s when disease rears its ugly head. Of course, it’s all a lot more complicated than that, but if you’re interested in finding out more, I suggest you read the following fantastic and highly informative books:

The Paleo Solution
The Primal Blueprint: Reprogramme your genes for effortless weight loss, vibrant health and boundless energy
It Starts with Food: Discover the Whole30 and Change Your Life in Unexpected Ways
Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook That Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats
The Paleo Answer: 7 Days to Lose Weight, Feel Great, Stay Young
Wheat Belly
The Paleo Diet for Athletes (Revised Edition)

Pan-Fried Smoked Haddock with Root Veg Chips and a Carrot Timbale
The Carrot Timbales are adapted from: Paleo Comfort Foods, pages 210 & 211
Serves 4

For the timbale:
• 2 tablespoons of coconut oil (or butter)
• 450g carrots, finely sliced
• 2 x large cloves of garlic
• ¼ teaspoon salt
• ½ teaspoon paprika
• 1 teaspoon nutmeg
• 1 tablespoon dried thyme
• 80ml (1/3 cup) coconut or almond milk
• 2 x eggs, beaten

For the “chips” and haddock:
• 4 x fillets of smoked haddock
• celeriac
• parsnips
• carrots
• cherry tomatoes
• olives
• sweet potato

For the timbale:
Heat the oil in a saucepan until hot. Add the carrots and garlic, toss to coat, lower the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook until tender for about half an hour or so.

Scrape the carrots into a food processor, and purée until smooth. Mix in the rest of the ingredients until homogeneous.

Spoon the purée into ramekins until they are nearly full, then cover with tin foil. If you want a crispy top, don’t cover.

When you want to cook them, preheat the oven to 165°C. Put the ramekins in a roasting dish, and pour in boiling hot water until it comes ½ way up the sides of the ramekins. Bake for 40-45 minutes.

Remove (carefully!) from the roasting tins, and serve either in the ramekin, or without. To remove, run a knife around the ramekin to help loosen the timbale.

For the haddock and vegetable chips:
Chop all of your “chips” in advance, and place them in a large roasting tin with coconut oil or butter. Pop them in the oven at 165°C for about 1.5 hours to 2 hours. This way, you can put the timbales in 45 minutes before the “chips” will be done.

About 15 minutes before serving, pop a small knob of coconut oil or butter in a pan and fry the haddock fillets until cooked (i.e. the fish is no longer translucent looking and flakes more easily).

Eaten: 03.11.2012 with my lovely family 🙂

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